Photo: ukk via flickr
Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold mine stopped production on Tuesday after 1,400 workers went on strike, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports.Strikers at the Kumtor mine are demanding an increase in contributions to the state social-security fund for 1993-2010 by Centerra Gold Incorporated, the Canadian company that operates the mine, head of the miners’ labour union committee for rights, Eldar Tajybaev, told RFE/RL.
The trade union also wants Centerra to pay the mandatory employee contribution to the Kyrgyz Republic social fund in addition to the mandatory employer contribution, Market Watch reports. But recent changes to the law mean that social fund contributions must be deducted from wages.
So the company claims the strike is illegal, as the collective agreement expires on December 31, 2012. It is in discussions with the union to resolve the strike.
According to Centerra spokesman Sergei Dedyukhin, the dispute was sparked by a request last year by the fund to increase contributions, since the fund says contributions by the workers in mountainous areas (Kumtor is 13,123 feet above sea level) should be higher because their salaries are higher.
Centerra Gold had agreed to pay the workers’ extra contributions for 2010 and 2011, but it was decided that as of 2012, the part paid by workers had to be increased as well, something the workers did not agree with.
Kumtor, which accounts for roughly 15 per cent of the Kyrgyz economy, is located near the border with western China and has been involved in numerous labour and environmental issues, which means this latest strike is a great source of worry for the country, Orozbek Duysheev, the president of Mining Companies Association and chairman of Public Watch Committee at the Geology and Mineral Resources State Agency, told the Kyrgz news agency 24.
“Who will invest to Kyrgyzstan when they see all these strikes or endless protests against mining companies? I guess, there won’t be any ‘volunteer’ who would invest money,” he said, saying the government needed to intervene in the ongoing dispute.
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