Tensions in Kazakhstan were mounting in the run-up to Kazakhstan’s ‘Independence Day’ this year. It was the sixth anniversary of the massacre of striking oil-workers in Zhanaozen and thousands of miners in Karaganda were on strike. Hundreds were occupying the pits in pursuit of the coal-miners long-standing claim for a doubling of wages and for a real improvement in safety provisions underground (See: Kazakhstan: Angry coal-miners on strike in Karaganda).
After three days of determined strike action, the miners were persuaded to suspend their strike and those who were underground came to the surface as the December 16th dawned. A decision had been agreed through a special court to suspend the action as the life and health of the strikers underground were in danger. Negotiations would continue.
Another important victory for the miners was the withdrawal of legal action against the activists for ‘criminal liability’. Our correspondents say the management still believes they can deceive the workers by paying an immediate wage increase of 30% and monthly premiums based on average earnings. There is a long way to go to get the full claim realised but one victory is already in the bag!
“Very big thank you”
The strikers have said that they feel all these concessions already are due to the expressions of solidarity around the world, organised by the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) and Campaign Kazakhstan. They send a “very big thank you” to all those who have supported them.
One of the miners’ leaders sent a recorded message to the CWI last Sunday, just after the first stage of the struggle was completed: "Hello to you! I want to express huge words of thanks to all those who have given support by spreading news about our strike because all our media did nothing to throw light on events here. They stayed silent, apart from one or two individuals who came to the pits to record what we had to say and pass it on.
"A big thankyou to our brothers and comrades abroad who have supported us. We have received your messages and read them and we want to say a very big thank you for them on behalf of everyone here. Our fight is not yet finished. We will, I believe, still win more, learning from any mistakes we have made and becoming stronger in the struggle. Again, a very big thank you."
It is reported that the owner of the mines, Lakshmi Mittal – one of the richest people in the world – thought that the miners were on $3,500 a month, not the measly $500 (This multi-billionaire gets that much in one minute of every day!)
The heroic action of the Karaganda miners was beginning to get support from miners and workers in nearby Ukraine. Messages poured in to them via social media from workers and young people across Kazakhstan, who are also worried for their future. They see thousands of workers standing up for their rights and are inspired.
This dramatic strike is not the end of the struggle in Kazakhstan. The aging dictator, Nazarbayev, will have been unnerved by the battle in Karaganda and be worried about what the future holds for himself and his regime. More international support will be called for as the industrial and political struggles gather pace.