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Kazakh Oil Giant Denies Talks With Striking Workers

Striking workers from the KazMunaigaz oil and gas company in Manghystau Province, western Kazakhstan
ZHANAOZEN, Kazakhstan -- Managers at a Kazakh oil and gas company are denying reports that talks have begun with striking oil workers, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

In a press release on October 6, management at KazMunaiGaz's research and development division said reports of talks with strikers in the western Manghystau Province regarding the reinstatement of 989 workers fired since the strike began in May are false.

The opposition Social Democratic Azat (Free) party said earlier this week that KazMunaiGaz officials have begun negotiations with workers whose jobs were terminated after joining the strike. The company's management reiterated in its press release that it has no intention "whatsoever" of rehiring the sacked workers.

At the same time, the press release said management has made every effort to help the fired workers find new jobs in similar companies or in KazMunaiGaz's service companies, but they have rejected those offers.

Thousands of workers at the Qarazhanbasmunai and OzenMunaiGaz oil and gas corporations in Manghystau, which are controlled by KazMunaiGaz, have been on strike for nearly five months.

They are demanding a wage increase, equal rights with foreign workers, and the lifting of restrictions on the activities of independent labor unions in the region.

Several of the fired workers have been brought to trial on charges of organizing unsanctioned mass gatherings.

A lawyer for the Qarazhanbasmunai oil company's labor unions, Natalya Sokolova, was found guilty in August of "igniting social hatred" and given a six-year jail term.

Read more in Kazakh here