* Left-wing activist group backs striking oil
* UzenMunaiGas employees say will prolong five-week strike
* KazMunaiGas EP says strike illegal, output affected
By Anna Andrianova
MOSCOW, June 30 A group of striking Kazakh oil
workers vowed to prolong their five-week dispute over pay and
conditions after travelling to Moscow on Thursday in a rare show
of dissent against authorities in the Central Asian state.
Three employees of UzenMunaiGas, a unit of London-listed oil
producer KazMunaiGas Exploration Production (KMGq.L), said they
had travelled to Russia to publicise a dispute they say is being
ignored by local media and politicians in Kazakhstan.
The visit was organised by Igor Yasin, who said he was a
Russian member of the Committee for a Workers' International, a
left-wing activist group.
KazMunaiGas EP, Kazakhstan's second-largest oil producer,
said in a statement on Tuesday it had lost 150,000 tonnes (about
3,000 barrels per day) of oil production from the Uzen field in
western Kazakhstan since the strike began on May 26.
As a result of the strike and a slight reduction in output
at other operating assets, the company has shaved 4 percent from
its previous 13.5 million-tonne forecast for consolidated crude
oil production this year.
Kazakhstan, the largest economy in Central Asia, holds about
3 percent of the world's recoverable oil reserves and has
doubled crude output over the last decade to become the
second-biggest producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia.
Labour disputes are relatively rare in the vast nation,
which President Nursultan Nazarbayev has ruled since before it
gained independence 20 years ago, but the Uzen strike followed
closely on the heels of a brief dispute at another Kazakh field.
"We are under pressure from our employer," 33-year-old Marat
Zhusipayev, who repairs oil wells at the Uzen field, told a news
conference in the Russian capital.
Protesters said their salaries had been cut and their lawyer
imprisoned on false charges. They said almost 16,000 people had
gone on strike at the height of the protest, which KMG EP says
The company said its UzenMunaiGas unit, based in the town of
Zhanaozen in Mangistau region, employed about 9,000 people. It
said 2,500 people were on strike at the peak of the dispute, but
that only 650 people were continuing to protest.
"Their demands are groundless and illegal," said KazMunaiGas
EP spokesman Daulet Zhumadil. He said salaries had not been cut.
Zhumadil said around 250 employees had been fired for
breaching their contract terms, but that the company was
encouraging others to return to work without fear of sanction.
"Hopefully, we will persuade them to return to their
workplaces," he said.
Maksat Dosmagambetov, another striking worker, said he and
his colleagues had followed procedure but had not received
satisfactory responses to their written requests to management
and other institutions.
"We will continue to strike," he said. "We do not have any
(Editing by James Jukwey)