Post-strike forecast

We continue our analysis of the four day strike at the coal mines of division of the ArcelorMittal Temirtau in Karaganda oblast.

Earlier, based on chronology of events of December 11-15 of 2017 we made 10 conclusions from what happenedю We will briefly remind about these conclusions and then comment on them.

  1. Strike of the miners was unexpected for administration of ArcelorMIttal Temirtau, and its organizers were activists from the ranks of miners themselves
  2. Dissatisfaction of miners, working for ArcelorMittal Temirtau with labor conditions and salaries has a mass character
  3. From the onset, authorities took side of the employer.
  4. Labor unions didn’t protect workers and acted in the interest of the employer and authorities
  5. Social activists played the role of defenders of employees’ interests.
  6. Strikers weren’t able to fulfill their wishes, but the employer had to compromise more.
  7. Akorda was directly involved in resolving conflict.
  8. Authorities were aiming to resolve the labor conflict by any means before the Independence day, while also making sure it didn’t transfer to a forcible confrontation between parties.
  9. Employer was more concerned with preserving production assets than with the strike itself.
  10. There were no middlemen during resolution of work conflict

We will start our comment by saying that strike organizers from ranks of employees acted in a right fashion, calculated and precise. We will clarify why we think so.

First, they started their protest before the independence day of Kazakhstan, which from Dec. 16 of 2011 is inseparable from the tragic events in Janaozen. This forced Akorda to immediately interfere in the conflict resolution and forgo the efforts of forcible solution of the problem. Maximum what they risked was to pressure protesters through court and prosecutor’s office.

Second, organizers have limited themselves with preparations for the strike only in their groups, where they could rely for support; this is judging from the fact that firstly four mines stopped their operation, while underground workers wouldn’t go up, and later four other mines followed their lead with a lag. This allowed them to avoid information leak, and as a result administration wasn’t able to stop events.

Third, organizers didn’t insist on meeting of their initial demands and agreed to a sort of a compromise. At the same time, increasing of salaries to underground personnel by 30% even considering invetibale efforts of administration to lower additional expenses for payment of labor through use of accounting tricks, is still a victory.

In turn, administration of ArcelorMittal Temirtau definitely suffered a loss, a serious one. Here is why.

First of all, administration of the corporation wasn’t able to prevent the strike, i.e. managers and engineering-technical staff at four mines, that stopped work first, wasn’t aware of miners moodsor sympathetic to them.

Second, the fact that the problem has formed in the country before the independence day, that not only threw shade on the government holiday but could also lead to repeat of the Janaozen tragedy, that de facto put a rest to Nazarbaev’s reputation abroad, likely pitted Akorda against management and owner of AM T.

Third, the victory of strikers will give a bigger confidence to labor collectives in fighting for their rights and at the same time will weaken the opportunity of administration to conduct its present politics of lowering of number of industrial personnel and all-encompassing economy when it comes to expenditure, first of all dealing with salaries.

The last direct participant of labor conflict is Kazakh authorities  who also suffered domestic loss.

First, because once again this was a failure of Akorda’s attempt to control labor unions through the system of pet unions. This also means that the authorities have no tools for preventing of social conflicts at the enterprises, aside from personal participation of officials and using of enforcers.

Second, having initially taken the side of the employer, authorties will pay for their choice since now they will be hated not only for their own misdeeds but also for misdeeds of the administration of the employer, and the latter will continue increasing every day. Thus, there will be less and less people who support current political regime, since being determines conscience.

Third, successful strikes, especially in big companies, where technicians demand big collectives, constant coordination of actions and interdependence of participants of the production process, create potential adversaries to authoritarian power, the same proletariat that Kazakhstan has forgotten about after USSR

It isn’t hard to forecast further events.

Even if Akorda refuses to outline and pursue organizers of the strike of Dec. 11-15 of 2017 at the mines of coal division of ArcelorMittal Temirtau in Karaganda, due to the fact that after Janaozen it wouldn’t want to poke the sleeping dog with the stick this nefarious activity will surely be undertaken by administration of the corporation and closely related local authorities.

Also this process will not be in an organized way, by the order of top-management above, but from the bottom, through the initiative of mines, directors of tracts and other line personel. This is simply because in Kazakhstan not many managers like independent, capable people ready and willing to defend their labor and human rights.

This means that an open, labor conflict in which considerable part of underground workers opposed administration of corporation ArcelorMIttal Temirtau and Kazakh authorities likely won’t end and will move to a hidden phase, will fall apart into multiple personal confrontations. As a result, most likely in the coming months, tens of activists who participated in organizing of the strike in one way or another showed activity or those suspected in disloyalty by administration of the company and the regime will be fired from enterprises. Unfortunately, in the conditions of lack of working labor unions, it is impossible to protect the rights of these people especially if social activists, for example, head of Miners Family, N. Tomilova will be purged.

Such tactics will allow top-management of ArcelorMittal Temirtau to lower protest potential of hired workers, however, will automatically lead to heightening of protest moods both at the enterprises of the corporation as well as in the regions. As a result, in a certain amount of time by our estimates no sooner than in a yea another labor conflict is inevitable.

Also it might end up having much gloomier implications. Because purging of activists, who organized four-day strike at the mines of coal division of ArcelorMittal, their inability to take up positions in official unions or create their own, to continue protecting interests of their comrades and their own, their inevitable problems with employment will lead to lack of people capable of organizing strike. Since, there will always be someone to fill the vacancy, next time miners strike could  be headed by some other people, who could end up being much more sharp in words and in action. Then if the compromise isn’t achieved, and employers and regime will switch to a forcible solving of the issue,protesters might start destroying the equipment, power supplies and even mine shafts. Evidently, this is an unlikely scenario but its possibility given preservation of current relations between power and people, goes up.

Coalminers’ strike: How it went down and the results.


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