5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Kazakhstan

The ITUC affiliates in Kazakhstan the
Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CNTUK)
and the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (FPK)

In practice

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The Kazakh government shows no intent to repeal criminalisation of strikes31-12-2019

Contrary to the recommendations of the International Labour Organization International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
, article 402 of the Criminal Code provides for criminal liability for public appeals to participate in a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
recognised as illegal by courts. This provision has been frequently used by the Kazakh authorities to suppress public assemblies and strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
actions. The latest case concerned Nurbek Kushakbaev, deputy chair of the CNTUK, who had organised a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in the oil sector in 2017.

In July 2018, minor changes were introduced to article 402, but these changes were insignificant and did not comply with international law. New amendments proposed by the authorities in 2019 will not ensure respect for the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. In the proposed bill, sentences are reduced from one year to three years in prison to 50 days in prison or 200 hours of forced labour for public calls for continued participation in an industrial action industrial action Any form of action taken by a group of workers, a union or an employer during an industrial dispute to gain concessions from the other party, e.g. a strike, go-slow or an overtime ban, or a lockout on the part of the employer. recognised by the court as illegal. Participation or calls for participation in non-violent strikes remain criminally punishable if these strikes were declared unlawful by the court.

Independent unions at local level still denied registration31-12-2019

In Kazakhstan, the independent trade union movement is unable to formally register a lower level union organisation. In September 2018, activists from the Mangistau region of Kazakhstan, previously members of the CNTUK, were not able to register a local union local union A local branch of a higher-level trade union such as a national union. called the Public

Association “Independent Local Union local union A local branch of a higher-level trade union such as a national union. ”. The registration body criticised the charter of the trade union, which, according to officials, did not contain a complete list of the duties of the trade union as well as some other provisions of the charter on the functioning of trade union bodies. However, no specific recommendations were given to bring the union’s charter in accordance with the law.

Trade union activists, who were previously affiliated with CNTUK, consider these grounds for refusal to register as far-fetched and arbitrary. At present, they have given up any hope to register their union with the knowledge that their attempts will be thwarted by the authorities.

According to trade union activists, the government of Kazakhstan, which had pledged to solve the problem of registering independent trade unions within the framework of an internationally agreed roadmap, has actually taken no steps in this direction.

It is to be recalled that article 489 of the Code of Administrative Offenses provides that leaders and members of public associations, including trade unions, can be held administratively liable for actions that go beyond the goals and objectives established by the charters of these public associations as well as in general for violation of the legislation. This broad and vague provision allows the Kazakh authorities to initiate proceedings against trade union leaders on virtually any motive.

CNTUK still prevented from registering official status31-12-2019

Since it was deregistered on 28 March 2017, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CNTUK) has been prevented by the government from registering under a new name.

Between July and September 2018, the founders of the union made three attempts at registering their union with the authorities. Every time their request was denied. On 6 and 27 August 2018, the Ministry of Justice refused registration of the organisation under its new name, Congress of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, because of the similarity of the name of the registered association with another legal entity. On 4 September 2018, the government accepted another name that was proposed, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions; however, registration was again declined based on the fact that one of the founding members was subject to court proceedings concerning an unpaid utility bill.

Since then, the founders have been unable to register their union and, consequently, to function as a union. This is an arbitrary and unjust use of bureaucracy designed to prevent the registration of a legitimate trade union entity.

Union leader imprisoned for a second time for union activity19-12-2019

The leader of the Independent Oil and Energy Workers’ Union in Kazakhstan, Erlan Baltabay, was again arrested and sentenced to an additional five months’ imprisonment for union-related activities and for not paying a fine imposed when he was previously released from prison on humanitarian grounds in August 2019 following a special decree by Kazakhstan’s president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Baltabay was originally sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in July 2019 for the misappropriation of approximately US$28,000 of union dues. Baltabay says the money is still in his possession but denies fraud, saying he acted to protect the money for his members after his petrochemical workers’ union, Decent Work, was forcibly dissolved in 2015.

He was released in August 2019 after being pardoned by the president and given a fine of an undisclosed amount in exchange for his remaining prison sentence. Baltabay insisted on his innocence and refused to pay the fine or recognise the presidential pardon. Baltabay and his lawyer argued in court that the criminal charges levied against him of large-scale misappropriation of funds were politically motivated and unfounded from the start. They explained that the person who made the allegation has no standing to do so under Kazakh law and that authorities should have dismissed the complaint and not brought a criminal case against Baltabay. On 19 December 2019, the Court rejected Baltabay’s appeal.

The sentencing of Baltabay has been condemned by international trade unions and human rights groups. These criminal proceedings, as well as those against CITUK’s Larisa Kharkova, Amin Eleusinov and Nurbek Kushakpaev, silence and repress leaders of independent trade unions and prevent others from taking an active role in implementing real freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
in the country.

Nineteen workers arrested for holding rallies demanding wage increases15-03-2019

Workers in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan, have been holding rallies since 22 February 2019, demanding increased wages for low-paid categories of workers to 150 thousand tenge (US$395), jobs for the unemployed, and full freedom to exercise trade union activities. Kazakh authorities responded by arresting 19 people.

These arrests are the latest in what has been a long and consistent crackdown on union activity in Kazakhstan, which has attracted universal condemnation from the international trade union movement and human rights groups.

Trade union leader hospitalised after vicious attack10-11-2018

Dmitry Senyavskii, leader of the industrial-tier fuel and energy trade union (FEWU) Karaganda Region local branch, was violently attacked on November 10, 2018 at his home in Shakhtinsk by two unidentified assailants. Senyavskii was subsequently hospitalised with serious injuries, including a broken arm and concussion. As a result of the attack, he was unable to travel to Astana for a meeting with representatives of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Arthur Svensson Foundation, which promotes trade union work.

Kazakh authorities have described the assault as a case of random hooliganism; however, it is likely that the attack was politically motivated due to Senyavskii’s union activism, and that it may have been a deliberate attempt to prevent him from travelling to the meeting with the ITUC.
Senyavskii and his family have experienced previous harassment. On 17 October, about a month after Senyavskii returned home from an international trade union gathering in Bosnia and Herzegovina, an unidentified assailant broke his apartment window in the middle of the night. A week later, an unidentified person called his wife, accusing Senyavskii of engaging in extramarital relations during his trip.

Politically motivated investigation into labour leader accused of embezzlement of union funds25-09-2018

Kazakh authorities in Shymkent have begun a criminal investigation into allegations that Erlan Baltabay, head of the local trade union Decent Work for Petrochemical Industry Workers, misappropriated union funds. The investigation stems from a complaint filed by a trade union member accusing Baltabay of stealing approximately US$28,000 in membership dues. Baltabay says that the funds, which remain in his possession, were placed under his supervision as chairman of the union, and that he can account for the funds.
As part of the investigation, the authorities have repeatedly summoned Baltabay for questioning, searched his home and office, and seized trade union documents and the trade union’s stamp. This has effectively paralysed his union from carrying out any formal activities. The investigation is ongoing.
It is likely that this criminal investigation is politically motivated in retaliation for Baltabay having repeatedly spoken critically about the situation of trade unions in Kazakhstan, including at the International Labour Conference in Geneva in 2017.

CITUK prevented from registering official status31-08-2018

Since it was deregistered on 28 March 2017, the Confederation of independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CITUK) has been prevented by the government from registering under a new name. On 6 and 27 August 2018, the Ministry of Justice refused registration of the organisation under its new name, Congress of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan. On 4 September 2018, the government accepted another name that was proposed, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions; however, registration was again declined based on the fact that one of the founding members was subject to court proceedings concerning an unpaid utility bill. This is an arbitrary and unjust use of bureaucracy designed to prevent the registration of a legitimate trade union entity.

Two prominent labour leaders released from prison31-05-2018

Two prominent labour leaders were released from prison on parole in May 2018, one year after being convicted in retaliation for organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action protesting against the dissolution of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KNPRK). Amin Yeleusinov, former chair of the trade union at the Kazakhstan Oil Construction Company (OCC), was released from prison in Pavlodar on 22 May following a decision of the local court handed down on 4 May. Nurbek Kushakbayev, deputy chair of the KNPRK and labour inspector of the trade union at the Oil Construction Company (OCC), was released from prison in Pavlodar on 28 May following the 10 May decision of a Pavlodar court to release him from prison on parole.
Kushakbaev and Eleusinov were arrested in January 2017 after hundreds of OCC workers went on a hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
to protest the dissolution of the KNPRK. The strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
was stopped after a court in Astana declared it illegal. Kushakbayev was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in April 2017 after being convicted for charges of instigating an illegal strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
by oil workers. Eleusinov was sentenced to two years in prison in May 2017 on embezzlement charges and for publicly insulting, assaulting and refusing to obey a representative of state authority.
Human rights activists in Kazakhstan and abroad condemned the convictions at the time, calling them politically motivated. Despite the release of the two labour leaders being welcomed by advocacy groups, the original convictions of the two men have not been overturned, and therefore concerns about the oppression of trade union activism in Kazakhstan remain.

Two trade unionists arrested, while the creation and existence of trade unions is jeopardized in the country through the application of the 2014 trade union law20-01-2017

On 21 January 2017, two trade union leaders – Mr. Nurbek Kushakbaev, deputy chair of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CNTUK), and Mr. Amin Yeleusinov, chair of the CNTUK’s affiliate Trade Union of Oil Construction Company – were arrested because they called for a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action.

Mr. Yeleusinov and Mr. Kushakbaev decided to call for collective action in response to a decision of an economic court in the southern city of Shymkent that ordered the closure of the CNTUK by 4 February 2017 for its failure to re-register provincial branches in at least nine of the country’s 16 regions. Before the ruling, the court rejected the union’s request to postpone the hearing to allow the defence to prepare, and denied all motions by the union, such as to question witnesses.

The harsh ruling was, therefore, the outcome of discriminatory behaviour in the application of procedural law, and the enforcement of a prohibitive trade union law adopted in 2014, broadly criticised for being in breach of international labour standards international labour standards Principles and norms related to labour matters, primarily codified in the Conventions and the Recommendations of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Include core labour rights such as freedom of association and the right to organise, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, which are all covered by ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

See ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
regarding freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
. Under the recently introduced trade union law, unions are obliged to register in at least half of the country’s provinces within six months from their establishment at national level. In the case of CNTUK, the registration process itself proved to be biased. Indeed, more than 25 trade unions were refused registration on arbitrary grounds.

The refusal to register trade unions and to de-register CNTUK was denounced by several international observers as an “egregious violation” of internationally guaranteed workers’ rights. On 5 January, around 90 workers started a hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
to protest these decisions. The hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
rapidly spread and, by 17 January, almost 400 workers had joined the hunger strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
at the Manghystau’s Qalamqas and Zhetybai oil fields.

Workers all over Kazakhstan are demanding that the ruling party - Nur Otan - registers CNTUK. However, Nur Otan’s regional branch is ignoring the request and denying having ever received any petitions from oil workers.

Two trade unions dissolved by a Court ruling04-01-2017

On 4 January 2017, as part of the continued attacks against freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
and basic trade union rights, a Court ruling ordered the dissolution of two trade unions, namely the National Healthcare Workers’ Union and the National Domestic Workers’ Union, both members of the Confederation Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (CNTUK). Following the Court ruling, all CNTUK documents have been confiscated and the activity at national level has been paralysed.

The Court ruling had its legal grounds in the 2014 trade union law with its restrictive prerequisites in order for trade unions to be registered at national level, as well as a very biased and unclear process of registration at provincial level.

Ministry of Labour denies registration to the independent trade union of the Oil Construction Company providing specious motivation 28-04-2016

On 24 June 2015, the Oil Construction Company trade union started the process of re-registration in accordance with the new trade union law introduced in 2014, but their request was denied multiple times. In October 2015, the trade union contested the Ministry’s denial in Court, but the judge ruled in favour of the Ministry and confirmed the decision in the appeal judgment.

Being unable to re-register the existing trade union, the Oil Construction Company trade union tried to register a new union. However, the request has been denied for several futile reasons on eight different occasions. Reasons given throughout the process included the use of the word “conference” instead of “council” or “congress”
and the intention of the trade union to affiliate itself with an international trade union, which is neither explicitly allowed nor prohibited by the law.On 29 April, the Ministry refused registration because the trade union used the abbreviation “profsoyus,” a short form for the Russian “professionalnii soyus,” (trade union). The Ministry repeatedly referred to the same reasons to refuse the registration of trade unions. This is what happened to a group of 10 miners in Zhezkazgan when they tried to register their newly formed union in late 2014. Their request for registration was denied on three occasions between February and March 2015, because the union indicated its intention to set up branch offices and because of the outstanding private debts of one of its members.

Thus, in most cases, registration was denied on arbitrary grounds undermining the right to freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
.

Authorities monitor the President of the Confederation of Independent Trade Union of the CNTUK during her trade union activity01-03-2016

In March 2016, Larisa Kharkova, the president of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (CNTUK), has denounced the fact that she faced surveillance by Kazakh authorities even during a work trip in Aktau in the western part of the country. She reported that the authorities followed her activity day and night, especially during the meetings she had with local trade unionists during which she was also photographed by the security agents standing close by. This surveillance is in line with the harsh anti-union climate that has been spreading in the country since a controversial trade union law was introduced in 2014. Therefore, it is clear that the Kazakh Government intends to undermine freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
and create a climate of hostility in which it is very difficult for trade unions and their affiliates to carry on their activities and freely advocate for workers’ rights.

No justice for dead, imprisoned and tortured oil workers31-12-2015

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.

Copper company dismisses 15 labour activists01-07-2015

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.

Independent union denied registration25-05-2015

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.

Interference by employers31-01-2013

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.

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