Solidarity needed – Kazakhastan: 10,000 oil workers on strike in Zhanaozen city

The following appeal was sent from Socialist Resistance Kazakhstan (CWI) activists. This vital strike of ten thousand oil refinery workers is facing a news blockade in Kazakhstan and also court rulings against the workers’ right to strike.

End the news blockdade & police provocations – Send urgent solidarity messages!

Please send urgent solidarity messages to the striking oil workers and their families in west Kazakhstan and protests to the bosses at АО National Company ‘KazMunaiGaz’and to Kazakhstan authorities.

On behalf of Socialist Resistance Kazakhstan (CW), we are appealing for solidarity for the workers at the ‘KazMunaiGaz’ company and its daughter company ‘OzenMunaiGaz’, in the city of Zhanaozen, in West Kazakhstan, who are on strike and whose leaders now facing repression.

Ten thousand oil refinery workers have been striking since 4 March 2010, and twenty are prepared to declare an indefinite hunger strike. Their families are supporting them. They are fighting for an improvement in living conditions and wages, and for the nationalization of the plant (which formerly was stated-owend), with the introduction of workers control over production.

The strike started on the 4 March with a mass meeting, attended by 3000 people, held at the bus station from where the workers are bussed to the oil fields. These were mainly workers working for ‘Ozenmunaigaz’, a company which was privatized and is now owned by Timur Kulibaev, the son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. They elected a strike committee, agreed demands and decided to set up an independent trade union. As a result of the strike, all deliveries of oil have been stopped. Only the continuous production lines are still working. Now oil extraction has also stopped.

In November, last year, the oil workers staged strikes and protests, accompanied by a hunger strike by dozens of strikers. Notwithstanding many management promises, the strikers’ demands have not been implemented. The workers are angry at the hellish conditions of work, low wages and also the outdated equipment they have to work with, which is bought by the company second-hand but written off for tax purposes as ‘new’.

The workers are convinced the problems are caused by the corruption of the leadership of the company and are a result of privatization. Therefore their main demands are for the all private shareholdings in the company to be returned to the state, and for the introduction of workers’ control of the conduct of tenders, purchase of equipment and distribution of profits. The workers have expressed no confidence in the management and are demanding direct negotiations with the country’s leadership.

Information blockade

The authorities are attempting to gain time and are trying to establish an information blockade around the strike. Not one of the central TV channels or mainstream papers has reported on these unprecedented events in Zhanaozen. Now there is a ‘war of nerves’ taking place, with the authorities attempting to identify “initiators”, “key organizers” and “extremists”, so that they can then be dealt with, by placing all responsibility for the strike on their shoulders and, by doing so, scare off the mass of workers.

At their daily meetings, the strikers promise that if there are any provocations or arrests of activists they will organize a march of tens of thousands of workers onto the regional capital Aktai, where they will organize a mass protest meeting involving local people, many of whom have already said they will support the protest.

On the 10 March, the city court in Zhanaozen declared the strike by the oil workers “illegal”, and ordered the suspension of the strike, charging several people with breaching administrative law. However, the oil workers are ignoring the court decision, and are not prepared to end their industrial action and, in fact, they are preparing to fight on to a victorious end.

The city of Zhanaozen is now circled by police and riot troops. There are many cases where they have used oil workers’ clothes to infiltrate the crowd and carry out provocations.

To strengthen the resolve of the strikers, it is necessary to get news out and to have a campaign of international solidarity. Thousands of strikers and their families are waiting to see what support they can get and are hoping they are not left alone in their just struggle.

We would also like to thank all sections of the CWI for the support given following the brutal beating of well-known CWI member, Ainur Kurmanov, in Almaty, last autumn.

We appeal to you again and to the entire international workers’ movement, to send your solidarity to the workers’ struggle of Kazakhstan, and to step up calls for the Republic of Kazakhstan to obey the norms of international human rights by assuring the right of workers to participate in trade unions and collective bargaining.

Please send messages of solidarity to: and protests to:

АО National Company ‘KazMunaiGaz’

Republic of Kazakhstan

Astana, 010000

Pr. Kabanbai-batyra, 19

Fax: +7 (7172) 97 60 00, 97 60 01

e-mail: and

And to the Embassies of Kazakhstan.

With socialist greetings,

Central Committee of Socialist Resistance Kazakhstan (CWI)

Special financial appeal to all readers of

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March 2010