An oil industry services company in western Kazakhstan has followed through on threats to striking workers by terminating the contracts of 11 employees who have been holding pickets demanding higher pay since mid-December.
West Oil Software executed the layoffs on January 12, as it had previously warned in an ultimatum to the striking workers, RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported.
The company claims that the month-long industrial action has caused it financial damage of up to 500 million tenge (around $1.1 million).
“It is not just the company’s financial position that is suffering as a result [of the strike], but also the household budget of striking workers,” West Oil Software said in a press release ahead of the firings.
The company maintains that attempts to seek a mediated resolution to the standoff have been thwarted by isolated troublemaking activists. Those wishing to pursue an end to the strike are being deterred from seeking that outcome by hardline holdouts, West Oil Software has said.
Around 500 workers began a strike on December 11, demanding to be employed in subsidiaries of the state oil and gas company KazMunaiGas, or KMG, which they believe would secure them higher salaries. They claim that while the majority of employees earn no more than $1,000, West Oil Software incorrectly claims figures twice as high as that.
West Oil Software says that 50 employees who had been protesting have since returned to work.
A group of West Oil Software workers have reportedly submitted a petition to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on January 13, pleading with him to stop what they have described as the pressure being put upon them.
One striker, Askerbek Abishev, told the news site Vlast that relatives employed by the state have been threatened with dismissal over his involvement in the standoff.
“They call relatives of workers who are public sector employees. In [local administrations], the police, schools... they threaten them with dismissal. Even today, at the school where our children study, the class teachers compile a list of those who work at West Oil Software,” Abishev told Vlast.
People laid off in earlier rounds of dismissals, meanwhile, have been summoned for police questioning as witnesses in a criminal investigation into illegal picket-holding, strikers told journalists.
The ongoing industrial action was ruled to be illegal by the Mangystau regional court on December 11. It was on that basis that West Oil Software dismissed 26 protesting workers within days of the strike commencing.
Almaz Kumenov is an Almaty-based journalist.