State authorities in Kazakhstan have hampered the functioning of independent trade unions in the country by simply de-registering and refusing to reregister unions. In January 2021, the authorities de-registered the branch of the Sectoral Fuel and Energy Workers’ Union (SFEWU)in the Kyzylorda region, founding the decision on an alleged de-registration request made by an ex-chair. The union made several attempts throughout 2021 and 2022 to re-register but its numerous requests were denied by the authorities on spurious grounds.
Kazakh authorities further complicated the registration procedure of the sectoral union with the administrative territorial reform of 8 June 2022, which created three new regions. The Kazakh law imposes, as one of the requirements for registration, that trade unions form branches of an industry trade union in more than half of the regions of Kazakhstan. The creation of more regions therefore constitutes an additional hurdle for the SFWEU and all trade unions seeking re-registration.
Right to trade union activities
State authorities in Kazakhstan have long been impeding the operation of independent trade unions in the country by simply de-registering and refusing to re-register unions. In 2017, the registration of the KNPRK, now the Congress of Free Trade Unions (KSPRK), was withdrawn by the authorities. Six years later, and despite the Government’s repeated expressions of commitment to resolving the matter, KSPRK remains unregistered.
Right to justice
Erzhan Elshibayev, a worker activist in Kazakhstan has been in prison for over two years. He was one of the organisers of the 2019 rallies in the town of Zhanaozen, a town located in the richest oil-bearing region of the country, to demand higher wages for local workers and the creation of jobs for the unemployed.
In October 2019, Elshibayev was sentenced to five years in prison on trumped-up charges. Allegedly, several years before, the activist assaulted an unknown person, inflicting bodily harm. Those charges were denounced by the international community as a form of persecution for his activism.
Right to justice
Five years following the 10 November 2018 attack on Dimitri Sinyavsky, the chair of the Karaganda Regional Branch of the Sectorial Union of Fuel and Energy Workers, there continues to be no progress in the investigation. An absence of effective investigations and judgements against parties guilty of violent attacks on trade unionists has reinforced the climate of insecurity for victims and impunity for perpetrators, which has been extremely damaging to the exercise of freedom of association rights in Kazakhstan.
Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes
In Kazakhstan, 21 workers faced criminal charges for participating in an illegal strike and 12 were fired, after some 400 employees of the Kezbi LLP, an oilfield service company in Zhanaozen, took industrial action in April 2022. Their demands included fair wages and better working conditions.