By Laura SULEIMENOVA
Employees of Kazakh-Hungarian Chemimontazh-Atyrau LLP called us on February 6.
They said NefteStroyService Ltd [NSS] people unexpectedly blew in their office, sealed the accounts room, changed security guards and seized the company stamp.
In light of mass reduction in major projects, many are afraid to lose their jobs. The least they may face after change of management is salary cut.
“It looked like hostile takeover. We had neither a single notice in advance, nor were held any meetings with the personnel. They [NSS] showed up on Monday, February 4, and began to change everything at once. They seized the office venue and the production area. Our security guards found themselves outside with no transport provided. So they had to wait for a few hours before their car arrived. Accounts office is closed too. Some Hungarian managers are now hurriedly leaving Tengiz. Rumors are the transit hotel in Atyrau is taken over too. Nobody explains a thing. We, workers, have been moved from our comfortable accommodation to the NSS dormitory which has only one WC-and-bathroom unit on each floor. At 22.00 everyday, they knock doors telling us we have to sleep. It’s like a prison” the workers complain.
At the same time, people prefer dismissal than working in harsh conditions.
“For the moment, we earn T90 thousand and more for a rotation, while NSS workers, who mostly come from the South Kazakhstan, are happy to work for T45-50 thousand. We are afraid that under NSS we will be paid much less. In that case, some of us prefer termination of employment. If they don’t meet us halfway, we will come out on strike” they added.
On the morning of February 6, the workers rallied only to disperse after the management promised them to explain the situation at a gathering in the following evening.
Crisis in Europe
Chemimontazh-Atyrau is a well-known contracting company at Tengiz, Caspian Pipeline Consortium and Kashagan.
Rumors about change of investors due to financial issues in Chemimontazh have long existed along with chats concerning difficulties in winning new contracts.
The company has also been experiencing big turnover of staff and it paid lower salaries to compare with those at Kashagan project.
Even the ones released from Kashagan do not wish to go and work in Chemimontazh, although the oblast employment department announced it would sign a memo with TCO, which also provides new hiring in Chemimontazh.
Fignar ANDRAS, the company director commented the situation over the phone:
“There is no reason for workers to worry. Indeed, there are negotiations being run with a potential investor. He is now conducting audit and analysis of the situation in the company. Last year we lost two investors at a time after the 4-year economic crisis in Europe that hit Austrian banks. One of the investors even went bankrupt. We, alone, maintained the business at account of our own money. For a year I have been seeking new investors until we reached an agreement with a possible partner last week. With our help he intends to broaden the range of services provided. I guarantee that after the change of investor, salaries will remain the same and no one will be reduced. We may have to temporarily reduce somebody until the spring season which promises larger work scope.”
According to Andras, the company currently employs nearly thousand people, 28% of them are Hungarians.
We listened to the position of the potential investor – the founder of NSS Ibragim AKDRASHEV too.
He says it’s not NSS demonstrating interest to Chemimontazh, but one of its partners:
“For the moment the question is intention only. Yes, there was a small incident in the morning connected to untimely noticing of the workers. In the evening we will tell them what’s happening. As for the company’s fate we need to understand that a new investor will undertake all the risks linked to large indebtedness of Chemimontazh. He is interested in survival of the company with rich background, a successor of the Hungarian enterprise which once constructed the first plant at Tengiz.”
- Do you guarantee that after the investor changes no one will be reduced and salaries will not be cut?
“I do. Moreover we will see work scope increase. But I do not exclude that in future we may need optimization.”
- You are often criticized for NSS mostly employing people from the south.
“Before all, we prefer qualified employees. Another thing - aren't they too citizens of this country?”
After the evening gathering, the workers contacted our editorial office again. According to them, they haven't received the answers to their questions.
"They didn't tell us who the new owner is. We were told our employer is on the verge of bankruptcy, and the new investor would help us financially. But they didn't give us any written job security or salary guarantees, said workers. – What, if on the pretext of audit, they liquidate our company, the Hungarians leave and we are shown the door?"
Exactly as we presumed, neither the employer nor the investor have to give written guarantees to workers.
There are two possible scenarios here, said lawyer Goulsym Sabirova:
"In case of company liquidation, bankruptcy and/or downsizing, the employer pays compensation in the amount of average monthly salary due to loss of job.
The second scenario relates to Article 49 of RoK Labour Code to the cases when the company changes its name, departmental affiliation, or there is a change of an owner or company reorganizes. In such cases labour relations with workers proceed without changes. At the same time reorganization can entail downsizing. Also reorganization of a legal entity may cause changes of working conditions. According to sub-item 21 of item 1 of Article 1 of RoK Labour Code the term working conditions mean the following issues: terms of payment, labour norming, work and rest hours, procedure for combining trades (positions), expansion of service zones, performance of duties of a temporarily absent worker, safety and loss prevention, technical, conditions of life and work, and also others conditions as agreed by both parties. Moreover, the termination of a labor agreement is allowed only in case of a written refusal of a worker to continue labor relations."