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International labour rights prize awarded to independent unions in Kazakhstan

The prize was established by IndustriALL affiliate Industri Energi, and includes both a cash award and support for union projects.

IndustriALL Global Union supported the nomination and celebrates the decision of the prize committee, made up of prominent members of the Norwegian trade union movement. Unfortunately, none of the three union leaders will be able to travel to Norway for the award ceremony.

The prize committee stated, “The three union leaders have shown great courage in continuing their involvement. The precarious situation of the laureates is only an example of the fierce reality faced, by not only workers in Kazakhstan, but also many the working people all over the world.”

Trade union rights are rapidly declining in Kazakhstan. In 2017 IndustriALL and the International Confederation of Trade Unions (ITUC) brought the case of workers’ rights violations in Kazakhstan to the ILO’s International Labour Conference in Switzerland.

On 25 July 2017, Kharkova, former chairperson of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (KNPRK) was sentenced, on false charges, to four years of restriction of her freedom of movement, 100 hours of forced labour, and a five-year ban on holding any position in a public or non-governmental organization.

Chairman of the oil service company OCC workers trade union, Amin Yeleusinov, and labour inspector Nurbek Kushakbayev were arrested and tried earlier the same year following a peaceful mass protest of workers in the Mangystau region, demanding the restoration of their federation KNPRK.

In an attempt to control independent trade unions after the 2011 massacre in Zhanaozen, the authorities adopted a repressive law limiting union freedom. The criminal prosecution of the three leaders is based on this legislation.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary, said:

“We welcome the award this year of the International Prize for Trade Union Rights to independent unions in Kazakhstan. We supported their rightful cause in the past and will continue doing so in the future, until all workers of this country enjoy their human and trade union rights in full.”

Previous winners include the South African Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (2017), LabourStart (2016), Bahrain Teachers Association (2015), Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, General Secretary of Los Mineros, the National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union of Mexico (2014).

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