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Kazakhstan: Workers Demand Back Pay

Almaty, 31 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Kazakhstan has seen a wave of labor protests today.

Our correspondents report that Almaty teachers picketed city hall to protest Mayor Viktor Khrapunov's decision to start reducing the staff of Kazakh language teachers at the capital's schools beginning November 1.

Meanwhile, the Kazakh opposition movement AZAT demonstrated in front of parliament to support some 1,500 workers of the Achisay Polymetal Plant in Kentau City. The workers began a 900 kilometer protest march to the capital one month ago in the hope of meeting the country's leaders to demand overdue salaries. But interior ministry troops blocked their way at Turkistan Arys Canal and since then the unpaid workers have been living in a large camp there. Many of the marchers have started a protest fast.

Demonstration organizers today demanded that parliament start discussing the plight of the Achisay workers. A member of the lower house of parliament, Esenbay Belgibayev, told RFE/RL that the Kazakh government has allocated the equivalent of two million dollars for the Achisay plant to cover debts to its employees.

Meanwhile, employees of the Aqtau nuclear power station in western Kazakhstan have asked the local administration for permission to organize a protest to demand overdue salaries. And workers at the Balhash Stroy state construction company are also renewing their demand for two years of overdue wages.