On the Picket Line

Kazakh miners organize sit-in to fight for wages, safety

By Terry Evans
January 1, 2018

Some 680 coal miners in north-central Kazakhstan stayed underground Dec. 11-14, halting production and occupying the ArcelorMittal mine in Shakhtinsk to press their fight for wages, safety and other demands. The miners, members of the Trade Union of Mining and Metallurgy Workers of the Republic of Kazakhstan, extended their action from four to eight ArcelorMittal mines Dec. 12. Family members and other miners brought food and clothing, sending them down to the mine floor to sustain the striking workers.
Kazakhstan authorities declared the strike illegal but agreed not to prosecute miners on their return to work.

The unionists won a 30 percent wage increase for underground miners. Negotiations will continue on wage rates for surface workers and on the miners’ demands for a reduction in the retirement age, additional safety measures and an improvement in the infrastructure of their hometown Shakhtinsk.

In August three miners died after a gas leak at the Qazaqstan mine there. “The technical equipment at the mine is lagging behind the Russian and Ukrainian mines,” stated Marat Mirgayazov, chairman of the Mineworkers’ Union Korgau at ArcelorMittal Temirtau.

The sit-in was the country’s largest strike since cops shot dead 14 people during an oil workers strike in 2011.

In January courts shut down the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan. In July the confederation’s president, Larisa Kharkova, was convicted on frame-up charges of “abuse of office” and banned from holding any position in a trade union, for five years.