THE PROTEST WORKING MOVEMENT OF KAZAKHSTAN-2021: ACTIVATION AND POLITIZATION
EDITORIAL: The information provided in this current published article does not in any way support the incitement of everyday sinophobia in Kazakhstan, initiated by the special services of the despotic regime of Nazarbayev-Tokayev. The ruling class of Kazakhstan, actively supported and consulted by the specialists of the Administration of the Russian Federation V. Putin, sets the goal of transforming the energy of the class struggle of the Kazakh people into a controlled scenario of bourgeois ethnic nationalism. All the facts below are exclusively anti-popular machinations of the bourgeois elites of the Republic of Kazakhstan, using the PRC corporations to strengthen their power, which are the logical costs of temporary state capitalism, which is actively being overcome today by the Communist Party of China, a number of whose members are associated political partners of our common Internationalist Social-Communist Movement.
Strikes are becoming a frequent occurrence in Kazakhstan and tend to politicize, as they mainly occur in enterprises with foreign capital or in companies owned by famous oligarchs close to the country’s clan ruling class. They are associated primarily with low salaries, which are now depreciating as a result of the creeping devaluation of the tenge, the local currency of Kazakhstan. Strikers also often demand freedom of trade union activity and the right to establish their own independent organization.
The first impulse to hold strikes in the country was the massive strike of machinists and workers of the transport enterprise LLP KM TRANCO on December 11, 2019 in the Kazakhmys corporation in the former Zhezkazgan region. Then more than 300 people gathered at the office of the company, and the rest suspended work. The employers made concessions, announcing on December 12 that they would give everyone the 13th salary and raise their salaries by 45%. Before that they promised only 10 or 20%. As a result, they agreed at 45%, and in July by another 45%. How much the corporation will execute it is a big question. In general, the corporation was forced to raise wages by 20% for all enterprises of the corporation.
Such quick concessions could be caused by the approaching parliamentary elections, and the Kazakhmys corporation itself contacts members of the ruling Nazarbayev clan, since Bolat Nazarbayev, the younger brother of Elbasy, the “Leader of the Nation” (Nursultan Nazarbayev).
As the managers of the company informed the press, this was necessary before the inclusion of the corporation, which mines copper, zinc, gold and other non-ferrous metals, in the IPO list on the London Stock Exchange. The shareholders of the corporation are also members of the British royal family and representatives of the British establishment.
But it is very likely that the 90% increase in wages for the transport workers of the service company has become a fear that the strike will spread to the mines, where capture strikes already took place in December 2017, when miners refused to rise to the surface until the requirements were fully met.
Then the workers also sought a 100% increase in wages, the staffing of brigades to the regular level, as well as the full complement of auxiliary, rescue and repair services, which were reduced in order to save money.
Already on December 27, 2020, in the Kyzylorda region of Kazakhstan, Kazakhstani oil workers protested at the enterprises of the Chinese company CNPC. The workers recorded on video their appeal to the current president, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, in which they said that they had prepared and sent a letter to the akim (governor) of the region, the head of the CNPC company, the head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan and the chairman of the local regional sovprof.
In this petition, the oil workers pointed to low salaries of 70 thousand tenge (168 USD) and demanded a 100 percent increase in salaries. Their demands were also soon met.
After the new year, strikes in the extractive industries erupted with renewed vigor. So, on January 6, 2021, about 300 workers on strike at the local office of the Italian oil and gas production TNK Bonatti S.p.A at the Karachaganak field in the West Kazakhstan region went on strike and a hunger strike at the same time.
Earlier in December, they appealed to the management of the Italian company with a request to raise their salaries by 50%, but their demands were ignored. The Kazakh employees of the company Bonatti S.p.A, located in the Burlinsky district, motivated their protest by the fact that the average salary of 150 thousand tenge (360 USD) no longer covers all expenses and borrowed loans.
As a result of the negotiations, the employer was forced to agree to meet the demands of the strikers.
Already on January 12, 2021, in the neighboring Aktobe region, workers of the Yubileinoye gold deposit in the Mugalzhar region organized a strike demanding higher wages. The deposit is owned by AltynEx Company JSC, which is part of the BSB financial and industrial corporation.
They demanded a 50% increase in wages. The company has raised employee salaries by 15% since the beginning of the year, and plans to increase it by another 10% in the second half of 2021, according to a statement from local authorities.
On January 15, 2021, Kazakhstani workers of the Chinese company Si Bu Engineering Drilling Company LLP in the Mangistau region, at their meeting near the central office, threatened a strike and put forward demands to Chinese employers related to wage increases and social guarantees.
Otherwise, the workers are ready to paralyze the work of the enterprise and organize protest actions, which oil workers from neighboring enterprises can join.
The protesting oil workers demanded:
• Increase in salary by 200 thousand tenge
• Raise premiums on holidays by 70 Minimum Fees,
• The thirteenth salary is to be charged in full, taking into account an increase of 200 thousand tenge,
• Payment of 50% of wages to employees in case of downtime,
• In case of non-fulfillment of these requirements, the company “Si Bu” LLP must declare itself bankrupt.
The workers sent these demands in writing to the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, to the akim – the governor of the region, as well as to the leadership of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan.
The oil workers promised that they would ask for answers from both employers and authorities.
It should be noted that Kazakhstani oil workers have already gone on strike at this company in the fall of 2019, demanding equal pay with Chinese employees, in order to equal pay for equal work.
The workers were outraged by the fact that at the contractors involved in drilling and servicing the fields, foreign employees of the same qualifications received salaries several or even five times higher.
Western and other foreign TNCs are also trying by all means to suppress the emergence of independent trade unions at their enterprises in Kazakhstan. Therefore, one of the demands of oil workers in the Mangistau region is freedom of trade union activity.
As a result, on January 16 and 17, 2021, workers went on strike, holding pickets near the company’s office, but so far they have not been able to achieve a turning point. On the evening of January 19, 2021, oil workers held a new mass protest action near the company’s office. They stated that their demands had not been met, and they are starting constant protests in front of the administration building and are ready to start a mass hunger strike.
The activists reported about pressure on them from the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan, the police and the prosecutor’s office, which sided with the interests of the foreign holding and threatened to initiate criminal cases, arrests, and massive repressions. Despite a temporary setback, speeches by oil workers of Si Bu LLP gave impetus to strikes in the neighboring Aktobe region.
So, on January 25, 2021, a strike of oil workers began at the Kokzhide field in the Temir district of the Aktobe region, which is being developed by the KMK Munai company. 50% of the company is owned by Yukon Energy Holding S.A., registered in Panama, another 50% – by the Chinese JSC CNPC-Aktobemunaigas. The workers demanded a 100% increase in wages, as many of them received an average of 140 thousand tenge (335 USD).
The strikers said workers overfulfill oil production targets every year, but workers’ wages are very low compared to other oil companies. Indeed, according to economists, these salaries turned out to be 5.7 times lower than in the industry. The president of KMK Munai, Wang Jinbao, came to a meeting with the strikers on January 26, 2021, and offered to raise wages by 20 percent, but the strikers refused.
As in other regions, the local authorities supported the employers’ side, and the regional akim (governor) Orazalin promised, having studied the lists of strikers, to dismiss all the instigators.
In total, the strike at KMK Munai lasted a week, and Chinese managers tried to vacate production facilities seized by the strikers, under threat of initiating criminal cases for participating in the illegal strike, and also intended to bring strikebreakers.
As a result, despite the danger of another repression from the police state regime, the workers won, and on January 31, 2021, the president of the company, Wang Jinbao, signed an order to raise wages to 260 thousand tenge (620 USD).
This time, employers and the ruling classes were frightened by the powerful informational and public support of the strikers, as well as solidarity assistance from the residents of neighboring villages and regional centers, who supplied the strikers with food and warm clothes. The workers of other service companies in the region also supported the strikers.
Following the example of the workers of the Kokjide field, on January 29, 2021, their colleagues from the company with the participation of the South Korean capital AMK Munai, who work at the Bashenkol field in the Temir districts of the Aktobe region, went on strike. There were very low salaries of 67 thousand tenge (160 USD), and the oil workers demanded to increase them at least to 150 thousand.
As a result, they also refused to leave their jobs and leave their watch. As a result, on January 31, 2021, their salaries were increased by 40 thousand tenge (95 USD) and they were promised to pay bonuses, and that was the end of the strike.
The last major strike in the mining sector took place on February 1, 2021 in the city of Zhanaozen, Mangistau region. Workers of MunaiSpetsSnab Company LLP went to a protest action demanding higher wages. According to eyewitnesses, several hundred people took part in the action.
The situation has been temporarily resolved, but strikes at service companies in this city, known for its strike tradition, could flare up again soon.
In addition to mining enterprises, strikes also took place in budgetary organizations and utilities. In particular, back in November last year, ambulance drivers of the city of Almaty went on strikes and rallies.
Activists of the protest labor movement in Kazakhstan spoke about the fines from the police, which are issued from the “Sergek” cameras, although if they do not come to the call within 10-15 minutes, the drivers are fined by the ambulance administration. Spare parts for the repair of ambulances have also been bought at their own expense for many years, although 131 million tenge (313,685 USD) is annually allocated from the budget for car repairs.
The dispatchers and nurses of the Almaty ambulance service constantly held actions, demanding the issuance of bonuses for working with sick patients, improving working conditions and ending harassment and extortions from the authorities.
The last action took place on February 4, 2021, when about 150 workers of mobile brigades held a rally against the system for calculating allowances, when doctors were forced to prove that they communicate and work with patients with coronavirus.
In the same Almaty, on December 29, 2019, a strike of drivers of the state utility company “Almaty Su” (“Water and Sewerage Management Company”) took place, the founder of which is the city akimat. The drivers in their demands were supported by the rest of the employees of the enterprise, although it is strategic, where strikes are prohibited.
The drivers demanded an increase in meager wages, and also complained about the lack of bonuses and the presence of irregular working hours. The bosses have established a draconian regime of fines, dismissals and bribes when hiring, as indicated by the striking Almaty Su drivers. Naturally, employers deny when journalists ask about any social problems.
The drivers demanded an increase in meager wages, and also complained about the lack of bonuses and the presence of irregular working hours. The bosses have established a draconian regime of fines, dismissals and bribes when hiring, as indicated by the striking Almaty Su drivers.
Naturally, employers deny when journalists ask about any social problems. In the city of Semey (formerly Semipalatinsk), on the eve of 2021, as many as two mass strikes of drivers of different bus fleets took place. So, on December 15, the city car park “Semey Bus” stopped. The reason, according to employees, is the non-payment of wages for two months. The employers promised to resolve the issues with the payment of wages, and half of the buses went on the line.
A week later, on December 23, 2019, about 40 buses of the Taxi Motor Park in Semey did not go online. The drivers demanded that they be paid their wages for November. The workers of “Taxi Park” decided to use the experience of their colleagues from “Semey Bus” LLP, who have already tried several times to knock out their “hard-earned” money in this way and they succeeded.
The last major strike was the speech of Shymkent drivers on February 3, 2021. On that day, more than a hundred drivers and conductors of the Shymkent Bus fleet refused to go on the line, demanding higher wages and better working conditions.
On Wednesday morning, workers gathered at the territory of the car park expressed their dissatisfaction, according to them, with the insignificant amount of salaries and “unreasonable demands of the employer.” They said that, despite the introduction of an electronic payment system, some passengers pay for their travel in cash in the public transport, and the employer obliges drivers to turn in a day plan.
Thus, we see that, starting from mid-December 2019 and up to the present, mass strike protest activity is growing exponentially in Kazakhstan, developing into a class struggle. It covers both the extractive industries with the participation of foreign capital, and transport companies, budgetary and public utilities.
The main requirement is an increase in wages, which have not grown in the past three years and, moreover, does not correspond to the official statistics on average wages by industry.
Perhaps with the reactionary goal of preventing strikes at the enterprises and mines of Arcelor Mittal Temirtau, the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev met on February 5, 2021 with the British billionaire Lakshmi Mittal and “instructed to minimize the incidence of industrial injuries, eliminate the inequality of wages of foreign and domestic workers company”.
It is noteworthy that not a single representative of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan was present at any of the listed mass strikes, although formally many are members of this organization. This suggests once again that the official state trade unions do not participate in labor conflicts in any way, and if they do exist, they only voice the opinion of employers. At the same time, the local authorities also sided with foreign investors in all negotiations, intimidating the strikers with criminal prosecution.
At the same time, government officials of Kazakhstan, out of fear of the expansion and politicization of protests, do not dare to go for open repression, which took place in 2017-18, when the leaders of the independent trade unions of oil workers were convicted.
This is largely due to the fact that the workers themselves, through their initiative groups, prepare and carry out strikes and rallies, and, accordingly, the protests are decentralized.
At the same time, attempts to create their own independent trade unions are suppressed by the authorities from below. In mid-February 2021, by the way, the last independent association, the branch trade union of the fuel and energy complex, was liquidated.
Such restrictions and constant threats from regional officials and special services ensuring the security of the country’s ruling dictatorial regime lead to the radicalization of strikes. So repeatedly strikes were in the fields during the shift and were accompanied by the actual seizure of equipment and industrial facilities as in the case of “KMK Munai” and “AMK Munai”.
The demand of the tragic and heroic strike of the oil workers of Zhanaozen in 2011 is also becoming popular again among the workers – the need to nationalize the entire mining and large industry under the control of labor collectives with the expulsion from the country of Western and other foreign corporations, on which the anti-popular despotic regime of the Nazarabayev clan is based.
based on materials by comrade Ainur Kurmanov
co-chairman of the “Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan”