14 June 2018: On the 13th of June in Oslo, Norway, the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights has been awarded to the independent trade unions of Kazakhstan, represented by Larisa Kharkova, Nurbek Kushakbaev and Amin Eleusinov.
The Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights is awarded once a year and is awarded to a person or an organization that has tributed in a special way to promote trade union rights.
Kushakbaev and Eleusinov were imprisoned for participating in peaceful protests, while Kharkova received a court sentence restricting her freedom of movement and confiscating her property. All three were banned from holding positions in public organisations, including unions.
The charges against the Kushakbaev and Eleusinov arose from a hunger strike of some 300 oil workers in protest at the government’s decision to dissolve their national trade union centre, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan. Many of the workers were arrested, tried together on the same night, and made to pay fines of over 500 Euros each – more than the average monthly salary.
The protest followed a series of administrative actions by the authorities starting in 2015 to deny registration of unions in the oil, health, construction, media and education sectors along with regional union bodies, as well as the independent trade union centre at the national level, depriving workers of their legitimate rights to union membership and collective bargaining.
The prize was accepted in their name by the President of the Pan-European Regional Council of ITUC Irakli Petriashvili.