Workers are on a hunger strike in Kazakhstan, protesting against the persecution of trade unions

Дата: 11 January 2017
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On January 9, authorities of Kazakhstan issued an indictment against Larisa Kharkova, a chairman of Confederation of Independent Trade Union of the Republic of Kazakhstan (CNTUK), part of the International Trade Union Confederation. She is accused of large-scale misuse and embezzlement of union funds.

As reported by IndustriALL Global Union, all documents were seized in the office of the Confederation. Activities of the Confederation, which was registered in February 2016, are paralyzed.

Larisa Kharkova faces a ten-year jail sentence.

Prior to that, on January 4, a court ordered the dissolution of the CNTUK affiliated national centre and its two affiliates, namely the National Healthcare Workers’ Union and National Domestic Workers’ Union. Lawsuits are also filed against other national trade unions, which are part of the Confederation.

Earlier, Larisa Kharkova reported to the “Fergana” news agency that because of the claims of Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan the organization may lose its republican status and all regional structures.

“We are facing a terrible situation – the closure of trade unions by the government. Firstly, a repressive law “On trade unions” was passed, which violated our rights and all international conventions. These innovations proposed for all unions to re-register, define their statutes and regulations, and within six months to enter into any field or republican structure. We did all of this. But in the end, instead of registering our branches, Ministry of Justice started filing a claims about the abolition of state registration”, – she said.

According to her, at the beginning of December 2016, five trade unions, which were part of the Confederation, submitted requests to open 40 branches in different cities of Kazakhstan, but only 16 regional offices were able to pass the governmental registration.

For more than a year and a half CNTUK received more than 25 refuses in the registration. Trade unionists complain that they can not protect the labor rights of workers and attract new members, since they are wasting all their strength to self-preserve.

As reported, the official reason of the dissolution of the CNTUK was the violation of the terms for submitting documents for re-registration, a procedure required for all trade unions in Kazakhstan after the adoption of the national Act on trade unions in 2014.

“There are signs that Departments of Justice deliberately delayed the process, using the fact that there are no clear mechanism for registration of changes in the statute of trade union”, – said in the statement of IndustriALL Global Union.

The Global Union claims that in a protest against the dissolution of CNTUK, dozens of workers at the Oil Construction Company in Kazakhstan have declared a hunger strike for 15 January. Although authorities have banned the initiative, workers have vowed to protest round the clock in front of the company offices, and refuse to eat until there is a decision to reopen their union.

Separately, there is an on-going hunger strike at the Kazakh Oil Company where workers are fighting against the closure of their union. They refuse to join the official trade union, which, according to them, can not protect their rights.

Myhaylo Volinets, the Head of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine, is outraged by the dissolution of the Confederation and the imprisonment threats of Larisa Kharkova. He calls the dissolution as artificial and notes that events in Kazakhstan are not unexpected.

“The pressure on independent trade unions in Kazakhstan and attempts to destroy them has been observed for a long time. In the end, this situation is possible only in non-democratic countries. I know the leader of CNTUK and don’t believe that such person as she, who is faithful to the case of the union, would make such actions”, – said Myhaylo Volinets, in the comment to the Human Rights Information Centre.

He is convinced that the world trade union community must show solidarity and stand in defence of CNTUK and a good name of Larisa Kharkova.

“It is important to show solidarity, so that truly independent trade unions could continue to operate and develop in Kazakhstan. Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (CFTUU) maintains relations with colleagues of CNTUK and knows how hard it is for them to protect the rights of workers”, – said Myhaylo Volinets.

“People like Larisa Kharkova are in minority in Kazakhstan. Therefore, this demonstrative punishment is just one of the methods of intimidating millions of workers”, – he added.

At least 15 people were killed and hundreds more received injuries as a result of the open fire of the police on the protesting workers

He also believes that we should not forget the Zhanaozen tragedy, when workers from an oil field, who were on strike for unpaid wages, were shot down and leaders of protest were arrested.

“Maybe if the world community was more active this would not have happened. We hope that the International Trade Union Confederation, Pan-European Regional Council of the ITUC and IndustriALL Global Union will give a proper assessment of the events in Kazakhstan and use all available mechanisms of action to protect the freedom of association and the rights of workers in Kazakhstan”, – concluded Myhaylo Volinets.

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