Kazakhstan Attracts Construction Companies From Around The World

The Trade Union of Construction and Building Materials in Kazakhstan invited the BWI from 14-17 August 2012 to Almaty for site visits and meetings with the Almaty Engineering and Construction Company Almatyinzhstroy, the Almaty Metro company Almatymetrokurylys and its trade union committee and the management and the Almaty Department of Control and Social Protection. 

Since its independence in 1991, Kazakhstan has become a dominant player in the Central Asian region. Enormous supply of accessible mineral and fossil fuel resources which accounts for 70% of country’s industrial output drives the economic growth. Increasing GDP allowed Kazakhstan to start building its infrastructure. Since 2000 Kazakhstan’s expenditure on construction steadily increased until 2007 when it reached 9.8% of the GDP. Although the construction industry in Kazakhstan suffered because of the global economic crisis, Kazakhstan’s construction market recovered in 2012. 

Hundreds of foreign companies or joint ventures from Russia, United Kingdom, Turkey, China or South Korea are active in Kazakhstan. Apart from spending CHF 50bn on developing the country’s three main oil and gas fields, notable projects include: upgrading 2,800 km of road between Russia and China at a cost of CHF 6.5bn, upgrading three oil refineries for CHF 6.7bn, integrating oil and gas and chemicals project in Atyrau for CHF 9.4bn, installing and upgrading new pipelines for CHF 1.5bn, building and modernising five power stations and upgrading the national grid for CHF 4.0bn, and upgrading regional airports and modernising the rail network. The Almati metro however is build solely by the national company Metrostroy, which started already in 1988. The first metro line with 8 stations on 8.5km is accomplished and two additional lines are under construction and he total metro network will be 25km. Labour relations in national companies are far better says Kussein Yessengazin (Photo), the union president . “At the metro project most of the 1000 workers are our members and the company is negotiating with us a collective bargaining agreement”. At the High Vill project in Astana , constructing mixed use residential quarter and office block, the prime contractor « DONGIL HIGHVILL CO ., LTDВ » company from the Republic of Korea is forbidding union organizing. The union is considering to launch a complaint to the OECD for non respecting the multinational company guidelines by the Korean company. 

The other side of the coin is that Kazakhstan is number 2 in the world in terms of fatal accidents and bad occupational health and safety conditions at work. The country ratified ILO Convention 167, health and safety in construction. However the union president states, that there are still huge problems with implementation of health and safety measures at sites. “The equipment is often outdated and there is little investment in health and safety”. Additionally, many companies from China bring their own old equipment that does not meet the international standards. For this reason the accident rate in construction is the highest and exceeds the average by 3 times of other industries. During the last 12 months around 100 workers had died in construction sites in Kazakhstan. The figure seems even underestimated as in case of migrant workers being killed on sites are not included in official statistics. The Department of Control and Social Protection together with the social partners is trying to improve the situation. The Department is providing support to companies on risk assessment and with health and safety checklists and training. 

Official estimates put the population of Kazakhstan at 16,433,000 as of January 2011, of which 46% is rural and 54% urban population. According to the statistics, main flows of migrant workers in the Republic of Kazakhstan come from the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, attracted by growing salaries and demand for workers, especially in construction and agriculture. Unfortunately, due to a restricted legal framework for foreign employment, most labour migrants work irregularly. In mid-2006, the government developed regularization for certain categories of labour migrants. This initiative, however, in long term, has not brought legal status and protection to the majority of labour migrants in Kazakhstan. The official quota of migrant workers is more or less reserved for Turkish workers and companies who are “legal” migrants/posted workers. The construction workers union states that there is clear discrimination against local workers who earn eight times less than Turkish workers in the same work site. 

In 1996 the Kazakhstan Construction Workers Trade Union was affiliated to the BWI family and since this time the union developed an excellent cooperation with the BWI on organising and modernizing the trade union, developing of networks of young workers and migrants. President Kussein said that he will present some successes to his next Union Congress in 2015. 

The delegation was composed of Marion F. Hellmann, Assistant General Secretary and Misha Kartashev, Project coordinator for Central Asia