Kazakhstan

Capital: Astana
Population: 17.29m. (2014 est.)

Kazakhstan ratified ILO Convention No.87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948) in 2000 and Convention No.98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949) in 2001.

On 16 December 2011 a rally in Zhanouzen by oilworkers associated with the Zhanartu Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan was the scene of serious public order disturbances before being violently attacked by armed police, who fired into fleeing crowds. At least 16 people were killed. The State Prosecutor’s Office acknowledged that at least 64 people sustained gunshot wounds. Several police officers were charged and eventually convicted after international outrage, but strike leaders and independent labour activists were also prosecuted. The resulting trials were criticised for a lack of fairness and for witness intimidation. At least one witness was killed.

In response to these strikes, the government adopted a new trade union law in June 2014 and a new Labour Code in November 2015. The reforms restricted the space for independent unions, including by limiting organising of local level unions to organisations that join or are part of the existing national trade union groups, at either national or regional level, and by setting barriers and organising thresholds for the establishment of new national or industrial trade unions. ITUC said the new rules ‘fall short of compliance with the ILO Conventions and create a possibility for a practical monopolisation of the trade union space in the country’, while the WFTU condemned the new law as ‘unacceptable’ and amounted to the ‘criminalisation of trade union activity’. Since the introduction of the new laws several indepedent union leaders have been harassed, arrested, and sentenced to substantial prison terms.

The Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (FPRK) coordinates what were the official Soviet-era trade unions. It now has about 1.5 million members. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KSPK) was formed in 1991. In 2015 the FPRK was granted full membership of the ITUC, despite objections pointing out that it had not expressed any support for the Zhanouzen strikers. The Confederation of Labour of Kazakhstan (CLK) was founded on 2 March 2004 and is active in forums such as the Tripartite Commission on Social Partnership. The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KNPRK), formerly known as the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KSPK) was organised in 1991. It became an ITUC associated member in 2015, but it was de-registered by the authorities in 2017. The trade union centre has since made repeated attempts to re-register under various names, but without success.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Kazakhstan, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: harrassment of trade unionsts (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: arrest and sentencing of trade unionists (2017)

Link to letterIntervention letter: dissolution of trade union centre (2016)

Link to reportIUR journal: 'Fatal end to oil strike', Mihra Rittman (2015)

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