The ITUC does not have an affiliate in Kazakhstan.
Four years after police killed at least 16 demonstrators and injured 60 more in the oil city of Zhanaozen in western Kazakhstan on 16 December 2011, those who organised and instigated the crackdown had still not been brought to justice. After the events, only a few rank-and-file police officers who opened fire were jailed, and some local officials punished for corruption offences.
Trade unionists and human rights campaigners decided to use the fourth anniversary of the massacre, on 16 December 2011, to highlight their call for answers. Little had been done to identify those really responsible for what happened. Statements about the Zhanaozen killings by the Kazakh authorities contradict each other, contradict accounts by other witnesses, and are difficult to reconcile with video and audio recordings made on the day, said activists.
In the wake of the tragic events, 37 Zhanaozen residents were tried in April and May 2012 for their part in the oil workers’ struggle, and 13 of them jailed. The trial judge passed numerous, and well-documented, claims of torture, made in court, to the Mangistau district prosecutor’s office, which declined to open a criminal case citing a lack of evidence. The office did not explain why it chose not to exercise its investigative function.
Demands for an independent international enquiry, by the United Nations and international trade union federations, had still not been met by December 2015.
On 1 July 2015 Kaz Minerals PLC sacked Yerlan Tabynova and 14 of his colleagues from the Kazakhmys copper smelting and processing plant. They had been among the most active in voicing their anger at their appalling working conditions, including steadily falling wages and unsafe working conditions. Few workers at the plant reach retirement age, with two deaths a month and many workers suffering respiratory and coronary diseases. Kaz Minerals has consistently refused to listen to its workers’ complaints and clamped down on any attempt by them to represent their views in an organised way or fight for their trade union rights. If workers dare speak openly about their grievances, they are promptly sacked without due process.
The Kazakh authorities refused to register the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CFTUK), an alternative to the state-run federation of “yellow” unions, on 25 May 2015. The refusal to register the CFTUK, based on a number of arguments concerning the charter of the organisation, demonstrated how the legislation can be used to make it difficult for unions to gain recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. , and came at a time when the government’s attitude to the unions was becoming increasingly restrictive.
In January 2013, the Trade Union of Mining & Metallurgy Workers of Republic of Kazakhstan (TUMMWRK) reported that Kazakhmys, a copper mining company in Kazakhstan, is forcing TUMMWRK members to quit their union and to join the company-controlled one.
The company has also forbidden the sending of union dues directly from workers’ salaries to TUMMWRK’s account, completely paralysing the Kazakhmys branch of the union.