Eastern Kazakhstan has been a regional center of poultry production since Soviet times, and the Cheremshanskaya “Poultry Plant Plus” is one of the largest. Formerly emplying 650 people, fifteen years after its privatization the plant today provides jobs for only 360. The average wage is some USD 100-120 monthly – but today wages are paid only rarely, and rarely in full. Wage arrears currently amount to USD 245,000, with 375,000 owed to the pension fund.
Management has invoked the threat of bankruptcy – killing off the poultry, paying down debt and closing the factory. But the poultry plant is the only employer in Cheremshanskaya. Anatoly Maksimov, chairman of the trade union committee at the plant, says, “If the poultry plant dies, the village too will die.”
So workers at the plant, represented by the IUF-affiliated East Kazakhstan Regional Union of Agro-Industrial, Agro-Machinebuilding, Processing, Food and Supporting Plants Workers are taking action to defend their workplace, their livelihoods and their community and homes.
On September 30 a committee was organized; on October 13, a strike deadline of November 15 was announced, putting the local authorities on notice. Union Chairperson Valery Ryzhov explains their demands: “We are asking for full payment of the wage and pension arrears, new investment and the maintenance of employment. Since the owner is not interested, we can only hope for intervention by the state. Otherwise the plant will go bankrupt – and this must not be allowed to happen.”
News of the union mobilization at Cheremshanskaya was reported in the media and made a profound impression on the local authorities, worried at the prospect of mass action. Faced with the threat of a strike, the Akimat (regional council) has credited the plant and its workers with 2000 tons of coal for heating and begun searching for new investors. Unless the situation changes for the better, the strike will be launched on November 15.