Take for example the government’s handling of labour and trade union reforms — a key concern in an export economy with many foreign investors. Mr Nazarbayev himself identified this as a crucial issue following extended labour strikes in western Kazakhstan in 2011 that ended in violence, leaving at least 12 people dead. However, rather than promoting greater engagement by independent trade unions in shaping the country’s future, new laws adopted in recent years have tightened controls on these bodies and on collective bargaining. Union leaders and labour activists face harassment and sometimes dismissal for legitimate trade union activities. Kazakhstan ignored advice on these laws from reputable expert bodies such as the International Labour Organisation, which has subsequently twice reprimanded Astana for not respecting basic international labour standards.
Director, Europe & Central Asia Division,
Human Rights Watch,