KazMunaiGas EP Workers Down Tools on Heroin Arrest

KazMunaiGas Exploration Production, a unit of state-owned KazMunaiGaz National Co., said output declined after 1,000 workers walked off the job to protest the arrest of a company driver for alleged possession of heroin.

The workers, most of them drivers, haven’t reported for work since Oct. 21, when their informal leader was detained on his way to work in Zhanaozen, western Kazakhstan, Mikhail Dorofeyev, a KazMunaiGas EP spokesman, said by telephone today from the capital Astana.

The workers demand that the case be dropped, Dorofeyev said. They have made no complaints against the company, he said.

Traffic police stopped three drivers on their way to the oil fields on the morning of Oct. 21 and tested two of them for alcohol, the Vremya newspaper reported two days later. Police then searched one driver’s truck and said they found a match box containing 0.4 grams of heroin and some hashish, the newspaper reported, citing Estai Karashayev, an oilfield official with KazMunaiGas EP.

As news of the driver’s detention spread, about 2,000 employees halted work in a show of protest, saying police had planted the drugs, Vremya said, citing Karashayev.

Apart from the drivers, most workers who took part in the protests have returned to work, KazMunaiGas EP said in an e-mailed statement. The company said it lost 1,098 metric tons of production during the demonstrations.

“The extent to which the company’s annual output figures are affected will depend on how quickly stable production at this unit is restored,” KazMunaiGas EP said.

The company said in March that its Ozenmunaigaz unit was working weekends and holidays to compensate for 27,600 metric tons of oil output lost during a strike from March 1 to March 18. As many as 3,000 workers struck over wages after the company moved to a new salary system.