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Oil Worker Strike In Kazakhstan Ends Without Violence

Oil workers in an energy-rich region in Kazakhstan ended on Wednesday their six-day strike, after the drilling company employing them agreed to raise salaries and lift opposition to union leader choices.

Around 2,300 workers had started the industrial action in the western town of Zhanaozen on September 30, demanding that private drilling firm Burgylau adopt the salary system of Kazakhstan’s state company KazMunayGaz, which is also the largest employer in the country’s oil industry. Burgylau has agreed to use a salary review system similar to that of KazMunayGaz, EurasiaNet.org reports.

Previously, Burgylau had said that it could not afford to raise salaries – that were already double the national average - due to the low global crude price.

Drilling for new wells in Kazakhstan is expected to drop by 50 percent this year, deputy energy minister Aset Magauov said in July.

However, Burgylau is expected to get new orders worth the equivalent of US$18 million (6 billion Kazakhstan tenge) to drill 34 oil wells, EurasiaNet.org reports.

The latest industrial action was the second strike of Burgylau workers in Zhanaozen in three months, after some 200 oil employees staged a five-day strike in July to protest against the company’s plan to cut working hours and salaries.

The town of Zhanaozen made international headlines in December 2011 when police clashed with striking oil workers in the bloodiest violence in Kazakhstan 20 years after its independence from the Soviet Union. The clashes left at least 10 people dead and more than 100 wounded.

More recently, a Chevron-led consortium of international oil majors approved in July of this year a US$36.8-billion output expansion plan for the giant Tengiz oilfield in Kazakhstan. In addition, the giant, highly expensive and complex Kashagan field in the country is expected to resume production by the end of this year.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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