In Kazakhstan, the Solidarity Center supports the right of workers to unionize in the face of harsh government opposition to unions, and monitors working conditions and violations of core labor standards to help support workers seeking to exercise their rights.

Kazakhstan’s vast hydrocarbon and mineral reserves have made the country the leading market in Central Asia. Yet despite Kazakhstan’s relative economic prosperity, worker rights are actively and often brutally violated by employers and the government.

In recent years, the political environment in Kazakhstan has become alarmingly anti-worker and anti-union, with the government passing increasingly restrictive labor laws. Since 2016, government repression has forced all independent unions to close, resulted in legal charges against half a dozen union leaders and threatened the physical security of activists and their families.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), there is “no guarantee of rights” in Kazakhstan. Trade unionists have been arrested, harassed, intimidated and otherwise persecuted for their work, in violation of international conventions on freedom of association and assembly. Striking workers can be fired, fined and jailed if courts declare their strikes illegal.

Labor rights reporters and advocates such as Larissa Kharkova, Amin Eleusinov and Nurbek Kushakbaev have been imprisoned for their work, or faced other legal penalties and Maksat Dosmagambetov died in 2018 after a lengthy prison sentence and torture.

Every year, hundreds of Kazakh workers are injured on the job, and scores are killed. These deaths and injuries most often are attributed to antiquated equipment, insufficient detection and prevention of occupational diseases and general disregard for safety and health standards and regulations.

The Solidarity Center is an advocate for freedom of association and all other core worker rights, and it recognizes that reversing government attacks on the right of workers to associate freely is not only vital to improving working and living conditions in Kazakhstan but is also critical in reversing the persistently closing space for the practice of democracy.