Ravich, Dzikun and Malchanau were detained in Svetlagorsk on 4 March this year – a week after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine – along with Alisa Malchanau, Aleh’s daughter, and Natalia Ravich, Dzmitry’s wife, who were released a few days later.
Ten years after police massacred striking oil workers at Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan, human rights organisations and trades unionists are demanding an international inquiry into the killings.
Even now, the number of victims is unknown. State officials admit that 16 were killed and 64 injured on 16 December 2011 – but campaigners say there were dozens, perhaps hundreds, more.
The initial killings, by police who fired into a peaceful, unarmed crowd, were followed by a three-day reign of terror in Zhanaozen, in the oil-rich Mangistau province in western Kazakhstan, and nearby villages.
The torture and sexual violence used against detainees should also be investigated by an independent international commission, campaigners say.
Although a handful of police officers were tried for “exceeding their powers”, and a detention centre boss briefly jailed, the Kazakh government has refused to say who ordered the shootings.
The Zhanaozen shootings ended an eight-month strike by the town’s oil workers, one of the largest industrial actions ever in the post-Soviet countries.
Oil workers and their families had demanded better pay and conditions, and the right to organise independent trade unions, at Ozenmunaigaz, a production subsidiary of the national oil company Kazmunaigaz, and contracting firms.
The campaign for a National Care Service in Scotland: a contribution to a discussion. By HILARY HORROCKS (Edinburgh trades union council delegate)
Health is a devolved matter in the not-so-United Kingdom, and that has allowed successive Scottish governments to bring in progressive measures that are missing in England, such as abolition of prescription charges for everyone and free personal care for the elderly.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) government certainly sought to distance itself from Westminster during the first stages of the Covid pandemic, when it seemed to follow scientific advice more carefully, and kept the public better informed with daily briefings by the First Minister.
Between the first and second waves of Covid last year the virus was just about eliminated in Scotland – but like Westminster, the government at Holyrood failed to use the summer to bring in mitigating measures to reduce infection. So in the autumn, the return of schools and universities, coupled with the loosening of restrictions, led to a rise in cases similar to England’s.
Mask wearing has remained a legal requirement in Scotland, including for all secondary school pupils, and is generally well observed – but cases remain worryingly high, particularly in poorer areas.
Here, as in England and Wales, the terrible toll of deaths in care homes at the beginning of the pandemic brutally exposed the disastrous policy of freeing up NHS beds by transferring elderly hospital patients to care homes with no proper testing.
By STUART CARTER (mental health worker and long-time union activist)
Three quarters of us will need some form of social care during our lifetime. In September the government claimed they were tackling the crisis in social care, by increasing National Insurance contributions by 1.25 % from 1 April 2022, thereby raising an extra £12 billion a year. They also made some changes to the thresholds for receiving free social care or having to make contributions to your social care.
Governments have been talking about social care reform for the past 20 years but have done next to nothing. The Dilnot report, commissioned by the coalition government in 2011, made some proposals similar to the present ones but more generous and far-reaching – but it was quietly ignored.
Successive governments have buried their heads in the sand.
Meanwhile cutbacks, especially in local authority budgets, have seen spending per person on social care drop 7.5% in real terms in the decade up to 2019/20. Progressive privatisation, that began in the 1970s, has resulted in 90% of social care now being delivered by the private and independent sector.
Increasingly, healthcare is viewed as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, that is controlled by private companies seeking profit.
Council-run care homes and council employed home helps are things of the past. However the COVID pandemic, which has killed 40,000 nursing and care home residents, has focused public attention on the state of social care.
Social care workers
One and a half million people work in the social care sector providing residential or home care. The average wage is £9.50 an hour and the majority of workers are on the minimum wage. There is no standardisation of training, terms and conditions are poor and there is a very low level of union organisation.
There is a great deal of instability, with many care homes going bust each year or being taken over by bigger companies. In home care, the workers are given limits on time they can spend with each client and many don’t get paid for their travel time between visits.