Eurasianet – As President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev firefights the aftermath of unrest that erupted in Kazakhstan last month, he is also confronting industrial unrest as grievances over low salaries spill into strikes.
On February 7 workers rallied outside an energy facility in western Kazakhstan that is owned by a subsidiary of Kazatomprom, the state-owned nuclear company, as negotiations to resolve a pay dispute floundered.
On January 25 workers from the MAEK-Kazatomprom energy plant put forward a demand to double their pay.
The company rejected it, on the grounds that it cannot afford the pay hike. It offered instead a 30 percent raise for all staff except managers, plus other concessions including bonuses paid out on public holidays. Workers’ representatives on a reconciliation committee rejected the offer.
Staff staged a protest rally on February 3 outside the plant, which is headquartered in the city of Aktau and supplies electricity, heating and water to the region.
Workers also penned a direct appeal to Tokayev complaining that in the face of rampant inflation they cannot live on their salaries, which they said average just 140,000-160,000 tenge ($325-370).
That is way below the national average salary of 268,051 tenge ($600). It is also below the average for Mangystau Region, which officially stood at 350,000 tenge at the end of last year.
The dispute will now go to arbitration, although the company says it will still raise salaries by 30 percent from March.
But angry workers rallied again outside the plant on February 7, continuing to demand their salaries be doubled.
MAEK-Kazatomprom confirmed the protest was taking place. However, it said its operations – which include three electric power plants and several other industrial facilities – continued to function without interruption, despite some of its 3,645 workers downing tools.