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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Russian Federation

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Russian Federation, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661e8a.html [accessed 26 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 140,900,000
Capital: Moscow
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Trade unions suffer from pressure and harassment by employers, which are often supported by local law-enforcement bodies. Mechanisms for protection against trade-union discrimination are poor and ineffective. The right to strike is limited, and the 2003 ILO recommendations on the right to strike and collective bargaining have only been partially implemented. In January 2010 VKT and KTR submitted a complaint to the ILO about systematic pressure on trade unions and lack of protection.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Despite initial guarantees, trade union rights are coupled with many restrictions. While freedom of association is enshrined in the Constitution and the Labour Code, in November 2009 the Constitutional court withdrew the requirement that consent of a higher trade union body is required in case of dismissal of elected, but not full-time, trade union officials.

The right to collective bargaining is also circumscribed as only one collective agreement can be signed in each enterprise on behalf of all the workers. Bargaining can be initiated by "primary group" trade unions that represent at least 50% of the workforce, or a group of unions if no primary group union exists.

Furthermore, the right to strike is limited, as strikes can only be held to resolve a collective labour dispute, and solidarity strikes as well as strikes related to state policies are not recognised. Railway workers do not have the right to strike, and the categories of workers employed in the internal affairs agencies who are prohibited from striking have not yet been specified. The duration of a strike must always be announced in advance. Finally, the right to strike is also weakened by the employers' right to hire replacement workers during a strike.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: The consequences of the financial crisis are still felt by workers. Around 205 labour protests took place in 2010, including around 90 work stoppages. On 14 May a grave accident took place at the "Raspadskaya" mine in the city of Megdurechensk, and 90 coal miners perished. Several hundred people subsequently blocked the arterial railroad in protest. In November the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs suggested amendments to the Labour Code, including a prolonged working week of up to 60 hours and a right for employers to unilaterally change the working conditions for economic reasons.

Trade union leaders face problems with access to workplace: The law grants external trade union representatives and inspectors the right to access workplaces, but this right is often ignored in practice. Some employers refer to governmental instructions regulating access to enterprises in their sectors to refuse to issue workplace passes, and when issued the trade unionists have to pay for them. Attempts to enlist the help of the public authorities have yielded little result. In 2009 the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR) addressed a request to the Prime Minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to draft a Federal Act providing for a procedure for access to workplaces. This petition was redirected to the Ministry of Health and Social Development, which eventually replied that the question requires additional discussions. An act has yet to be adopted.

Recourse to dispute resolution and strikes undermined: Official statistics only indicate that a few strikes took place in 2010, but according to unofficial monitoring at least 205 protest actions occurred, including at least 88 collective work stoppages. The majority of these actions were held without observing the procedures and requirements of the Labour Code concerning collective labour disputes.

The unofficial actions are a result of the extensive restrictions and complicated procedures in the law; of unfair behaviour by many employers having no intention to negotiate with workers and resolve collective conflicts; and of blunt interference by the law enforcement bodies, which often support the employers, especially in small towns and isolated territories. Various tactics including pressure, intimidation and threats are also used by employers, prosecutors, officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and others to prevent workers and trade unions from accessing dispute resolution mechanisms and from going on strike.

As a result workers and trade unions do not believe that they can effectively use the legal procedures and thus prefer to organise other types of mass actions to attract the attention of the regional or federal government.

No effective system for defending trade union rights: Defending trade union rights and stopping discrimination can be a gruelling experience. Trade unions' appeals to prosecutors' offices may not only go unanswered, but may even result in increased pressure on the unions. Going to court is only possible in case of specific violations, and the procedure is both complicated and costly. Furthermore, even when a court rules in favour of the union, that does not alleviate the general situation, as trade union rights are constantly violated. Neither the Criminal Code nor the Code of Administrative Offences contains any special provisions on the liability for violations of union rights.

Unions often denied registration: Under the Federal Law on Trade Unions, Their Rights and Guarantees of their Activities, trade unions are registered as legal entities upon notification, and it is prohibited to deny registration. However, in practice the registrars often deny registration or require the unions to make changes to their statutes. For example, the registrars may view the requirement in the law to specify the geographical scope of the union's activities as an obligation to provide a list of all the territories where affiliates exist, thus making it difficult for affiliates from other territories to join the union. The registrars can also require regional unions to specify all sectors where an affiliate can be created, although the law provides for no such requirements.

Union leaders harassed and dismissed, union destroyed: Dmitry Kozhnev, a worker at "Centrosvarmash" JSC and a leader of the local union of the Inter-regional Trade Union of Automobile Industry Workers (MPRA), was reinstated on 28 May 2009 by the decision of the Zavolzhsky district court of Tver (see the 2010 edition of the Annual Survey). Immediately afterwards he and the vice-president of the organisation, Alexander Andrianov, were put on standby – a measure involving reduced pay during temporary halts in production – and were not even paid according to the standby rate. After the company increased its production in 2009, Kozhnev and Andrianov were still on standby during all of 2009 and the beginning of 2010.

On 1 February 2010 Kozhnev and Andrianov, after the end of another one period of standby, came to "Centrosvarmash" JSC and were informed that they would stay on standby till 12 February. When they reported for work on 15 February, they were told that they were supposed to start work on 5 February and were subsequently dismissed for absence from work. They appealed the dismissals to the Zavolzhsky district court of Tver, but on April 28 the claim was rejected. The Tverskoi regional court later upheld the district court's decision. The local union at "Centrosvarmash" JSC was created in 2007 but was forced to dissolve in 2010.

Inaction of Prosecutor helped destroy local union: Due to numerous violations of the rights of the Inter-regional Trade Union of Automobile Industry Workers (MPRA) local union at "Centrosvarmash" JSC, the Chair of the trade union committee Dmitry Kozhnev has sent a number of appeals to the Prosecutor of the Zavolzhsky District of Tver since November 2008. Instead of verifying the facts described in the union's appeal, the Prosecutor verified the legality of the establishment of the union and made a conclusion that the local union had not been properly established at "Centrosvarmash" JSC. Kozhnev appealed this decision to the Prosecutor's Office of the Tver Region, which however supported the position of the prosecutor of the Zavolzhsky District of Tver.

During 2009 Kozhnev applied to the Prosecutor of the Zavolzhsky District of Tver four more times, but an investigation of violations of trade unions rights was not initiated. Kozhnev then lodged a complaint over the Prosecutor's inaction to the Zavolzhsky district court of Tver, but in February 2010 the complaint was rejected on the grounds that answers to all the union's appeals were prepared. On 3 March the Tverskoi regional court upheld this decision.

During this period, while the trade union couldn't get protection from the prosecutor's office, the union leaders were discriminated against and dismissed twice. Members of the union were also pressured and intimidated. As a result the local union of MPRA, created at "Centrosvarmash" JSC in 2007, was destroyed in 2010.

Workers liable to pay for financial damages due to strike: In September the Tuapse city court took a decision on a claim by the "Tuapse Commercial Sea Port" LLC against a local trade union organisation and seven employees who were members of the strike committee. The court ordered the workers to pay RUB 1,358,682 (around EUR 34,000) for financial losses caused by the strike in 2007.

Trade union leaflets declared extremist materials by court: In the autumn of 2009 the Federal List of Extremist Materials, routinely compiled by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, was updated with trade union leaflets that had been considered as extremist in a verdict by the Zavolzhsky District Court in the city of Tver on 28 August 2009. The leaflets had been prepared and circulated by activists of the local union organisation of the Inter-regional Trade Union of Automobile Industry Workers (MPRA) at "Centrosvarmash" JSC in the city of Tver. However, they had not been informed that the union materials were the subject of a court case, and learned of the court verdict only after the official publication of the updated List of Extremist Materials on the website of the Ministry of Justice.

The forbidden materials included leaflets about the consequences of the financial crisis, about nonstandard work arrangements, about the creation of a new local union at "Centrosvarmash" JSC, and about demands for night-shift pay. The MPRA and the local organisation at "Centrosvarmash" JSC tried to appeal this judgement in 2010 through a number of legal venues, including by filing a complaint to the European Court of Justice, but the court ruling still stood at the end of the year.

Unjustified interference with unions' statutes: In August 2010 the Prosecutor of the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy requested Kamchatka Regional Association of Trade Unions, affiliated to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), to change their charter and include provisions concerning 'participants' of the association. Such provisions are mandatory for associations – a type of commercial legal entity – but not for trade unions, which are regulated by different laws.

In 2010 prosecutors' offices in four regions also lodged six complaints against local organisations of the Federal Trade Union of Air Traffic Controllers of Russia (FPAD) and against FPAD itself about alleged illegal provisions in their charters. These provisions regulated the right of trade unions to carry out collective actions and stipulated the procedure for declaring strikes. While FPAD stated that these paragraphs conform to Russian legislation and that the union would always take decisions in accordance with the laws, the district court in Moscow, two courts in Tomskaya oblast and the district court in the Republic of Saha (Yakutia) all decided to satisfy the complainants. The courts referred to the law that currently prohibits air traffic controllers to strike. The decisions remained in force after hearings in the second instance.

Discrimination and persecution at "TAGRO" LLC: A local trade union of the Inter-regional Trade Union of Automobile Industry Workers (MPRA) was organised at the end of 2009 at "TAGRO" LLC in the city of Tver. After management was made aware of this as well as of the name of the Chair – Denis Litvinov – they started to put pressure on him and other employees. At a meeting organised by management, employees were forced to vote publicly against the union and its Chair and to write explanatory notes as to whether they were members of the union. Union member Andrey Kaznov, who was earlier dismissed from "Centrosvarmash" JSC in the city of Tver for his trade union activity, was forced to resign.

Litvinov was summoned twice to the Tver Regional Department for combating economic crimes of the Ministry of Internal Affaires and finally questioned at his workplace on the basis of an application by the Director of TAGRO LLC. Litvinov was accused of counterfeiting trade union documents, and a criminal investigation was initiated.

In July and August Litvinov was intimidated, harassed and threatened with physical attacks by the security service of TAGRO LLC. He was also put under surveillance. Litvinov was punished for disciplinary reasons a few times, and although the penalties were overturned by the Moscow district court in the city of Tver on 18 June, on 10 September he was dismissed. On 3 November the district court in Tver reinstated him, but after the reinstatement the discrimination continued: Litvinov was the only employee whose salary wasn't increased in November 2010, and it was demanded that he write explanatory notes on supposed violations of the discipline. The Prosecutor's office didn't find any violations of Russian legislation in this regard.

Registration obstructed: In 2010, during the election campaign (conference) in many organisations affiliated to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR), the registration bodies refused to register changes to the unions' charters. This was for example the case for the Yaroslavskaya Regional Association of Trade Unions, whose changes were rejected by the regional department of Yaroslavskaya oblast of the Ministry of Justice. Although the union followed the requirements of the Law on Trade unions, the department found that the Law on Non-commercial Organisations concerning the competence of the superior body of the organisation was not properly observed. This ruling was later upheld by the Kirovskiy district court of Yaroslavl.

In September 2010 three local organisations in Saint Petersburg established an interregional trade union "New Trade Unions" and submitted the charter and appropriate documents for registration to the Regional Department of the Ministry of Justice in Saint Petersburg and Leningradskaya oblast. In December the union received a notification from the Department stating that the union was refused registration on 11 November. The refusal was based on the argument that the charter did not enumerate the sectors and territories in which "New Trade Unions" will operate, although this is not required by the Law on Trade Unions. "New Trade Unions" appealed the refusal to court.

Widespread harassment and dismissal of unionists: Employers prevent the creation of trade unions in branches of transnational companies, and members of newly created organisations face treats, pressure and intimidation. In many cases trade union leaders have been dismissed.

After the local union 'Torgovoe yedinstvo' affiliated to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) was organised in 'IKEA' in Saint Petersburg in August 2009, management started to pressure and harass the unionists. In March-August 2010 IKEA made an attempt to dismiss Svetlana Kostyuchenko, Vice-Chair of the union committee. She was given three disciplinary penalties, and a draft order for her dismissal was also prepared. However, the court overturned this sanction.

In June Valeriy Kudryakov, the Chair of the local union committee, was held in the working premises for five and a half hours and was forced to resign under threat of physical attack. His application to the Prosecutor's office after the incident did not lead to any investigation. In July a trade union activist discovered that the work place of Mr. Kudryakov was under video surveillance. In September union activist Nikolai Grishin was dismissed, formally because of unsatisfactory health, and the union lost the case for his reinstatement in the court of first instance.

A local union at "Metro Cash and Carry" in the city of Tyumen was organised in 2009, and immediately after that the union members were subjected to pressure and harassment. During 2009-2010 Lyudmila Stolyarchuk, member of the union committee, was punished twice with disciplinary action and was dismissed twice, although both times she was reinstated by the Leninskiy district court of Tyumen. Four other members of the union committee – Yelena Kirsanova, Olga Sedinikina, Elena Guravleva and Elena Volkova – were also punished with disciplinary action, and two of them had to agree to a different job in order to evade dismissal. Union activist Nataliya Fomicheva was also reprimanded twice in 2010, and Nataliya Andreeva was put on standby – a measure involving reduced pay during temporary halts in production – in April before the court overturned the order in June. In spite of numerous appeals to the Prosecutor's office, not a single manager was punished for violations of trade union rights.

After a local union was organised in the hypermarket 'Auchan Orbitalnaya' in the city of Rostov-na-Donu, the Chair of the union were dismissed. On 9 March 2010 he was reinstated by court decision.

On 20 January Alexander Fedotov, Vice-Chair of the local trade union at Coca-Cola in the city of Krasnoyarsk, was dismissed on the grounds of repeated violations of discipline. He appealed to court in February, but in November his claim was rejected by the district court and in December by the Krasnoyarsk regional court. The courts refused to investigate allegations of trade union discrimination, and rejected all plaintiffs' requests for evidence from the employer.

On 27 January Sergey Strikov, Vice-Chair of the local trade union at 'Nestle Water Coolers Service' in Domodedovo, in the Moscow region, was dismissed on the grounds of breach of trust. He had been working as a driver and forwarder. On 12 May he was reinstated by the Domodedovskiy City Court of the Moscow region.

Air traffic controllers union harassed and members persecuted: A unified collective agreement signed between the Federal Trade Union of Air Traffic Controllers of Russia (FPAD) and the State Company of Russia on Organisation of Air Traffic for 2007-2010 on the indexation of salaries has been violated by the employer since April 2009. The State Company rejected numerous FPAD requests to start collective bargaining to conclude a new unified collective agreement for 2010-2012 despite an agreement on 19 May 2009 to conclude an agreement for this period of time.

Instead the State Company developed a Methodology on conducting worker's conferences, and used it in March 2010 to force workers in eight of 15 branch offices to elect representatives controlled by management. Fifteen collective agreements were signed in March 2010, reducing the guarantees for workers in general and air traffic controllers in particular.

In September 2009 the FPAD was informed that they had to move from their current office to a much smaller one, again in violation of a previously signed agreement from 25 May 2007. The FPAD leadership and the staff were forbidden to enter the old office, and the FPAD President had to issue one-day admission cards to everyone entering the new office, including to all employees.

Eight chairpersons of FPAD local trade unions were dismissed in 2010 for their trade union activity, but five of them were reinstated by court. Over 25 trade union activists were further sanctioned with disciplinary action. Fifty air traffic controllers in the city of Rostov-na-Donu were also reprimanded in March 2010 after they had participated in mass action against the State Corporation's refusal to bargain with FPAD. Since air traffic controllers have no right to strike in Russian legislation, the action was organised in the form of a collective reading of the collective agreement. As a result FPAD was excluded from social dialogue and had to consecrate all its efforts to combat numerous legal attacks. The union was forced to participate in court hearings almost daily.

Agency workers used to weaken trade union: A local trade union of the Agro-Industrial Union of Russia was organised in 2007 at the "Bochkarev" plant in Saint Petersburg, belonging to the Heineken company. During a sit-down strike in 2007 management started to use strikebreakers employed through the company "Partner", a labour agency. After the strike was over, management continued to use the agency workers, especially at the storehouse where the main part of the trade union activists had been working. As a result the number of workers employed on regular contracts decreased from 700 in 2007 to 180 in 2010, whilst the number of agency workers increased from only a few in 2007 to 180-190 in 2010. Union membership consequently decreased during this period from 370 (of 700 workers) to 83 in 2010.

On 18 October 2010 union activists at Heineken organised a picket near the entrance to the company against the increasing use of agency workers. Although the picket was organised in accordance with the law, the Ministry of Internal Affairs met the trade union activists in November on the employer's request. The Ministry questioned the workers about the picket, and the workers were subsequently called to the Prosecutor's office to answer the same questions.

Trade union members at "Acron" LLC harassed and discriminated against: After the local trade union organisation of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR) at "Acron" LLC in the city of Velikiy Novgorod protested against violations of the collective labor agreement, the employer made an attempt in November 2009 to disrupt the trade union elections. The trade union committee's members and its Chair were not given access to the trade union office at the company premises. The employer also made a few attempts to capture trade union funds from bank accounts.

The municipal bodies of the city of Veliky Novgorod refused three times to give permission for trade union solidarity actions (pickets, rallies). The Office of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation in the Novgorod region also refused to register information about the newly elected Chair of the local trade union as prescribed by the law.

In 2010 many acts of harassment and discrimination against trade unionists occurred, including dismissals, unfair payments, and pressure. On 1 January 2010 a new local Act on wages was adopted by management, determining personal bonuses which are much lower for trade union members. As a result they were paid almost 30% less than other employees. In December 2010 Sergey Simonov and Vitaliy Pavlov, both union activists, started a hunger strike against trade union discrimination.

Local union not recognised, unionists dismissed: In August 2010 a local trade union of the Inter-regional Trade Union of Automobile Industry Workers (MPRA) was organised at "EcoTechpro" LLC in the city of Tver. The local union informed EcoTechpro's Director about the creation, but he refused to receive documents, communicate with and recognise the trade union.

Bad working conditions, including poor health and safety, and a low salary that was paid informally and often manipulated spurred the union and the workers to appeal to the Prosecutor of the Moscow District of the city of Tver as well as to the State Labour Inspection in September 2010. A few days after submitting the appeal, the management of EcoTechpro received a list of the employees who had signed the appeal and requested each employee to explain both orally and in writing why they had signed the document. The employees were intimidated, and eventually all nine who had signed were forced to resign or were dismissed. The Prosecutor did not conduct an investigation of the facts described in the appeal, and gave the formal answer that there were no violations at "EcoTechpro" LLC. As a result the local MPRA union was obliterated.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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