this article was just posted on Paul Murphy's blog the socialist party's own MEP from Ireland part of the CWI- committee for workers international on the recent strikes in Kazakhstan
As I mentioned yesterday, I have spent the past week in Kazakhstan meeting up with NGOs, community activists and striking workers. It was an incredible trip and the scale of the strike wave is unbelievable and is having an enormous impact throughout Kazakhstan, despite the massive repression from the state. Below is a Press Release from this morning outlining what exactly is going on and the importance of a campaign of international solidarity with the workers. In the next few hours, I’ll post up a draft protest letter and I’d encourage everyone to send a copy as well as asking friends, family and colleagues to also do so and if possible, to push for your trade union branch to send a copy too.
Press Statement: 21 July 2011
Official visit of Paul Murphy MEP as part of European United Left delegation to Kazakhstan
*Incredible strike movement impacting oil production in West Kazakhstan
*Strikers are met with jailings, intimidation and brutal repression – right to strike and form independent trade unions are being denied.
*Management is refusing to negotiate with strikers – massive campaign of international solidarity needed
*Sting cancelled concert in support of the striking oil workers
Paul Murphy MEP is currently on a delegation to Kazakhstan on behalf of the European United Left group (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament. Within the short period of a week, he has traveled across this vast country, meeting with mining workers near Karaganda, campaigners against housing evictions in Almaty, as well as representatives of the government.
A major strike is raging in the Mangistau Oblast in the west of Kazakhstan, where, at its height, up to 16,000 workers in the oil industry have been on strike. This strike has now been ongoing for over two months. Supporting this strike was a key reason for the visit. Paul spoke to open air meetings of thousands of workers, met individually with workers to discuss their cases and had discussions with the management of KazMunaiGas, Kazakhstan’s national oil giant which is closely linked to the government and President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. He also met with the local governor in the area. Before visiting Kazakhstan, he had spoken out about the strike in the European Parliament (http://www.paulmurphymep.eu/kazakhstanvisit)
One of the most pressing demands for the workers is the release of two trade union representatives who have been jailed. Natalia Sokolova was the workers’ lawyer and has been jailed for “fermenting social conflict” and another trade union representative, Akshimat Aminov, has also been jailed. If found guilty, Natalia Sokolova will face a prison sentence of more than 10 years.
“The jailing of two trade union representatives and lawyers of these striking workers is an outrageous attack on the right to strike and the right to form free and independent trade unions. Natalia Sokolova, has now been in jail for over two months. I spoke with her husband, who has been denied the right to see her for all of that time and has received a death threat in the post telling him to drop this case. These breaches of human rights and workers’ rights are only a selection of the abuses that I have witnessed”
“The repression, brutality and intimidation that these workers are faced with is outrageous. Workers’ protests have been attacked by the riot police. The strikers have been sent text messages threatening the lives of their families and threatening to burn their homes. Many have also received official letters from the company stating that if they continue their strike, they will be fired. Hundreds of workers have already been fired, simply for exercising what should be their right to strike.
“I not only met with workers and their representatives in west Kazakhstan, but also with the Governor of the region and very senior representatives of the oil company, KazMunaiGaz. Unfortunately, it was clearly explained by the First Vice President of the company, that the management is not willing to discuss with representatives of the strikers until the strikers return to work, and that those who have been fired would not be able to return. Clearly that is a call for the workers to surrender rather than a serious attempt at negotiation.
“A serious campaign of disinformation is being waged by the Kazakh authorities in downplaying the importance of the strike. The attempt to undermine the strike has now also led to allegations about the character of my visit. The Kazakhstan national press agency released a statement declaring that I am simply here on a ‘private visit’, when in fact I am on an official delegation from the European United Left parliamentary group.
“I am convinced that the workers’ demands are justified. Natalia Sokolova and Akshamat Aminov, the workers’ trade union representatives, should be released immediately. All of the workers who have been fired and all of the strikers should be allowed back to work without any reprisal actions being taken against them. The company must sit down to negotiate with the elected representatives of the strikers.”
“I have given a firm commitment to these workers that I will do everything in my power to assist them and I certainly intend to do that. I will be launching an international solidarity campaign with these workers.
“Sting recently cancelled a concert in Kazakhstan in support of the oil workers’ strike saying that, ‘Hunger strikes, imprisoned workers and tens of thousands on strike represents a virtual picket line which I have no intention of crossing’.
“More solidarity like this is necessary. I am calling on the trade union movement in Ireland and across Europe to take up the cause of these heroic workers and to express their support for the workers in order to increase pressure on the company to negotiate with the strikers.”