Kazakhstan: 25,000 coal miners strike over atrocious pay and conditions

Urgent international support needed!

Miners from the ‘Coal Department’ of the ‘Mittal Steel Temirtau’ company in Kazakhstan (a branch of the international corporation ‘Arcelor Mittal’) went on strike on 25 September. The workers’ demand wage rises (currently there are only paid 250-300 US dollars a month), the lowering of the retirement age (with pay by the hour), and other requirements. The strike began after the death of 41 miners due to their mining equipment wearing out and because of the absence of decent work conditions. (For more information on miners’ pay and conditions, visit: http://kazakhstan.socialism.ru/solidarity/2006/shahtersky_bunt.html  (with electronic English language translation))

Every day, a mass meeting of miners from all 8 ‘Mittal Steel’ mines take place at the Shakhtinsk city administration building (45 kilometers from Karaganda city). The miners are determined to go to the end to win their demands.

The strike began despite the "advice" of the official trade union (called ‘Korgau’) to the coal miners to not take militant action. Now the miners are trying to create structures from below. Socialist Resistance (CWI Kazakhstan) fully supports the miners and calls for fighting, democratic trade unions, and for the nationalisation of the mines and metallurgical industry in Kazakhstan.

This is the first miners’ strike, on such a scale, since the Kazakhstan miners’ disputes in 1989. Currently, 25,000 miners are on strike. The strike is also supported by workers in the Karaganda metallurgical industry, who have their own battles to fight. These workers held a mass meeting on 30 September, in Temirtau city, and demanded a 40% wage rise.

Moral and political support needed

The striking miners are taking courageous action and flexing their industrial power, but they need international moral and political support quickly. The official trade union leaders, and the local city and regional uthorities, try to divide the workers. Permanent surveillance of striking miners takes place. The government-run mass media constantly puts out misinformation and negative reports about the strikers.

We appeal for telegrams and letters of solidarity to be sent to the striking miners’ ‘unofficial’ leader, Pavel Shumkin, who was well-known as a miners’ leader during the 1989 strikes.

Contact Pavel Shumkin at: Loboda St., 13, Apt. 49, 100000, Karaganda, Republic of Kazakhstan. Phone ++7 3212 41 36 04, mobile ++7 705 574 75 91.

Or email letters of support to: pshumkin@yandex.ru.

Please send copies to ‘Socialist Resistance (Kazakhstan), email: kri-ainur@mail.ru and ainur1917@yandex.ru.

A solidarity fund for the striking miners is established. More information about the fund will be published on www.kazakhstan.socialism.ru.

We also ask you to contact trade unions in other ‘Arcelor Mittal’ plants in 16 countries across the world. These include plants in the Czech Republic, Canada, and the USA. Arcelor Mittal’s policy of brutal labour conditions and low pay is also practised at the ‘Krivorozhstal’ company, in the Ukraine, and in Romania.

An explosive situation is developing in the Kazakhstan mines. A wave of strikes, and the appearance of new fighting trade unions, can sweep the country, especially if the present miners’ dispute is won. Socialists, trade unions and activists everywhere must support the miners in Kazakhstan. Only through solidarity and by common struggle can we defend our rights and win real victories!

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