Kazakhstan needs genuine social dialogue
On 4-5 April, IndustriALL Global Union and the mining and metallurgical trade union Kazprofmetal held a joint strategic activity on union organizing in Astana, Kazakhstan, for union leaders and activists from most of the country’s metallurgical operations.
“In Kazakhstan, the situation within companies and society is very tense. Neither the authorities nor employers have learned from the tragic events in Zhanaozen during the protests in December 2011, which occurred due to a lack of social dialogue and resulted in the accumulation of unresolved social problems,”
said Kazprofmetal chairman Asylbek Nuralin.
Instead of developing social dialogue with workers represented by trade unions, authorities targeted activists, passed a regressive law on trade unions in 2014, and banned independent unions.
Under pressure from the ILO, the government was forced to make some changes to labour legislation, but they were cosmetic.
The new policies led to social and political upheaval and triggered mass protests in January 2022. The government was forced to promise reforms. However, the redistribution of property between local elites continues and makes it difficult for companies to operate. Workers regularly resort to protest action to raise their concerns, because the social dialogue is impossible.
Participants noted that the Kazak government politicizes strikes making them almost impossible, even if the strike is based on labour issues unresolved at the workplace.
Unions proposed to simplify the procedures for a collective labour dispute and are actively working on labour legislation reform initiated by the government so that new draft laws do not worsen the situation for workers.
Regional secretary, Vadim Borisov, proposed using international mechanisms applying to the ILO Committee of Experts, to push the government to ensure that changes in labour legislation comply with international norms and standards, both on paper and in practice.
It was agreed to hold similar capacity-building sessions on organizing at the enterprise level for local unions.
Kazprofmetal chairman Asylbek Nuralin said:
“This will help our union ranks to better see the ways and forms of union work at their enterprises in order to more effectively fulfill the task of strengthening the union team.”