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A court in southwestern Kazakhstan has ruled that a strike by several thousand workers at an oil producing subsidiary of KazMunaiGaz is illegal, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

At court proceedings in the town of Zhanaozen initiated by OzenMunaiGaz's parent company, Exploration Production KazMunaiGaz, the workers were also ordered to return to their jobs.

The workers have officially been on strike since March 4, although they began work stoppages three days earlier.

Ikhlas Shangereev, trade union chairman at one of OzenMunaiGaz's units, told RFE/RL on March 10 that the strikers have not yet received the court decision.

He added that the court ruled that each worker who has been on strike since March 4 must pay 707 tenges ($5).

Striking worker Tabyn Ergenov told RFE/RL that the protesters will not end the strike before a new pay system is reviewed and the OzenMunaiGaz management is sacked.

On February 23, new OzenMunaiGaz Director Bagytkali Biseken issued an official decree according to which the "industry" salary ratio was replaced by a "regional" ratio. Many workers said that their salaries decreased as a result. The management said salaries actually increased by a small percentage.

No compromise was found during strike negotiations between the workers, on one side, and Exploration Production KazMunaiGaz CEO Kenzhebek Ibrashev and Biseken on the other.