The award of this year’s Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights to the independent trade unions of Kazakhstan is a powerful message of international solidarity. The Kazakh authorities’ refusal to allow a representative of the country’s independent union confederation KNPRK to take part in the prize ceremony on June 2012 should strengthen international pressure on the government to stop the systematic repression of independent unions and respect human rights.
Workers in Kazakhstan have fought for over a decade for the right to organize themselves in independent unions, through mass industrial action and collective hunger strikes. The government has responded with violence, intimidation, pressure on union members’ families and relatives and the use of deadly force against striking oil workers in Zhanaozen in December 2011, when at least 14 workers were shot and killed. The independent labour movement will continue the fight for full rehabilitation of all workers who have been sentenced to prison or otherwise punished for their courage to stand up to repression.
The Arthur Svensson prize is an international award established “to promote and strengthen trade unions and trade union rights internationally” by the Norwegian union Industri Energi. You can read the prize committee’s statement on the 2018 award here