In Appeals,Video

Angry protests erupt in Zhezkazgan

Workers demand nationalisation not ‘conservation’ of KazakhMys

On the morning of 24June, hundreds of angry Zhezkazgan residents gathered outside the metal foundry of London-based company KazakMys. They feared for the future of their town on hearing that the corporation had decided to “place the plant in conservation”.  The workers see this as management planning to close the factory. In response, they demanded that it, and other companies owned by KazakhMys in Zhezkazgan and Satpaev, be nationalised, to prevent these two towns being turned into ghost towns.

“Just as smoke from a house chimney is a sign of life in the home, so the smoke from its factory chimneys is the sign of life in Zhezkazgan”, wrote Berik Zhagiparov, a local member of the Socialist Movement Kazakhstan. (Berik was editor of the paper ‘Molodezhnaya Gazeta’ before it was closed down this year and has been arrested and detained twice in the last few months for being involved in protest demonstrations.)

Just over a week ago, the General Director of the holding company, KazakhMys Smelting, announced that the factory was to shut on 1 September. He said that 200 white collar staff would be given work in another town, Balhash, 500 workers would remain in the factory and 800 would be made redundant. This was taken to mean that those left at work would have the job of dismantling the plant. Local residents see this as meaning the closure of Zhezkazgan, particularly given rumours already circulating of the closure of the enrichment plant in Satpaev. This would leave another 1,000 workers on the streets. A total, with families, of 15,000 people will be affected.

Video film of Monday’s demonstration at shows demonstrators demanding answers from the management and their false friends in the company union. The workers ask what has happened since they made such huge efforts to save the whole Karaganda area from ruin. They do not accept that they should be asked now to make these huge sacrifices because of some problem with the price of copper on the world markets.

Bosses and workers’ ‘representatives’ get a rough ride

The director of the factory, Tanenov, and deputy Mayor of the City, Beibut Akhanov, addressed the workers and claimed that there were no plans to ‘conserve’ the factory; the bulk of workers would remain and work on reconstruction, at least part-time and on 50% of their present income. Naturally, nobody believed his words, as they contradicted both last week’s statement and the plans revealed in 2011, which said that KazakhMys was planning the demolition of their factories and the transfer of production to Balhash.

Having no satisfactory answer from the bosses, the workers demanded that Torekozh Tlemisov speak. He is president of the in-house trade union. But he just repeated what the bosses had said. The workers quickly accused him of just being the Director’s advocate. They asked him openly why he had not been amongst the workers, but had instead come out with the bosses and ignored his members. Another speaker insisted that none of the local representatives had shown any concern for the plant and suggested they should all be recalled and in their place, new representatives be elected to act in their interests.

During the protest, the workers drew up an appeal to the President to nationalise the factories to maintain production and the life of these cities. Now tactics and methods of struggle are being discussed. Understanding that no-one is listening to them, they have decided to take their struggle further. Plans include rallies, strikes and other protest action to defend their factory and their future. The workforce is convinced that the local population, whose livelihoods depend on the plants, will support their demands. There will be a new gathering of all concerned on 6 July.

Solidarity messages from around the world would give tremendous courage to the working people of Zhezkazgan.

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