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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Russian Federation

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Russian Federation, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8892ac.html [accessed 29 December 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: 142,900,000
Capital: Moscow

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Threats: 15
Dismissals: 11

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Violations of trade union rights, such as pressure and harassment by employers, persisted in 2011, as did the inefficiency of the mechanisms that are supposed to provide protection against trade-union discrimination. The right to strike remains limited, and the majority of workers' protest actions face legal obstacles.

Background

The consequences of the financial crisis were still felt by workers in 2011. More than 250 labour protests took place in 2011, including more than 90 work stoppages. These protests were caused by wage arrears, restructuring of enterprises, low wages, etc. At the same time, the percentage of radical actions, such as hunger strikes and the blocking of highways (which were quite numerous in previous years), reduced substantially, from 17% of protest actions in 2010, to 4.5% in 2011.

The political context was influenced heavily by the parliamentary and presidential election campaigns. The trade unions protested against the initiatives of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) to liberalise labour legislation, enabling employers to unilaterally change the terms and conditions of employment contracts for economic reasons, and to introduce a prolonged working week of up to 60 hours. These amendments to the Labour Code have been rejected for the time being, but may still be an option for the future.

At the same time, the main trade union centres, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR) and the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR), campaign for the proposal to prohibit agency work in Russia, which was under discussion in the State Duma at the time of writing as agency work is often used as an union-busting mechanism by the employers.

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.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Trade union leaders face problems with access to the 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 government 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.

Recourse to dispute resolution and strikes undermined:

At least 263 protest actions occurred, including at least 91 collective work stoppages. The huge majority of these actions (around 92%) were held without observing the procedures and requirements of the Labour Code concerning collective labour disputes.

The recourse to unofficial action is a result of the extensive restrictions and complicated procedures in the law; of unfair behaviour by many employers who have no intention of negotiating with workers or resolving collective disputes; and of blatant 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 cases 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 liability for violations of union rights.

There were a number of court rulings in 2011 concerning cases of trade union rights violations committed in previous years.

On 19 January, Tverskoy District court again refused to uphold an appeal by the Inter-regional Trade Union of Automobile Industry Workers (ITUA), affiliated to the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR) and the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), which concerned the decision (in 2009) to include trade union materials into the Federal List of extremist materials.

On 18 January, the regional court of the Samarskaya region rejected the lawsuit brought by activists from the General Motors – AvtoVaz primary trade union organisation, who were fired without any consultation with the trade union in 2009.

In 2011, numerous claims by the activists of the primary trade union organisation at "Tikkurila" near St Petersburg were rejected by the courts. A deputy chair of the trade union organisation, Igor Ramko, another deputy chair, Elena Rostovskaya, the members of the trade union Vyacheslav Vackulenko and Alexander Kalyniuk were dismissed in 2010, and their claims were rejected.

One of the cases in which a court refused to protect the human rights of trade union activists in 2011 was connected with the most outrageous and brutal example of repression against a trade union leader, the case of Valentin Urusov, a leader of the trade union organisation at ALROSA, the largest diamond company in Russia. The leader of the newly established trade union was sentenced to six years in jail in 2008, on trumped-up charge of storing drugs. Despite an international solidarity campaign, Valentin Urusov remains in jail. His appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Sakha Yakutia on 30 June 2011.

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 that regional unions specify all sectors where an affiliate can be created, although the law provides for no such requirements.

Violations

Trade union busting and systematic prevention of trade union activity at Nokian Tyres:

The Nokian Tyres primary trade union organisation of the Inter-regional Trade Union of Automobile Industry Workers (ITUA), affiliated to the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR) and the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF) was established on 13 March 2010. By the middle of 2011, the newly established union had been almost totally demolished by the employer. The chair of the trade union, Rustam Zabitov, was forced to quit his job. Cases of direct interference by the company's management in the activity of the trade union during this period have been reported.

On 19 April, the employees of the enterprise were urged by management to sign the collective letter "against the trade union''. When the trade union members tried to distribute an ITUA newspaper within the premises in April, they were prevented from doing it by security guards.

When they tried to carry out a survey, via questionnaire, on working conditions within the company on 11 April, Denis Khodyrev, Pavel Utrobin and Vyacheslav Smirnov, all trade union members, were seized by security and held by force in the recreation room. They were later forced to leave the premises of the enterprise. The trade union addressed the State Labour Inspection, but the latter was satisfied with the refutation of Nokian Tyres.

Anti-union action at Arkhangelsk pulp and paper mill:

The management of the Arkhangelsk pulp and paper mill (Arkhangelskaya region) began to put pressure on the members and activists of a local trade union affiliated to the Trade Union of Forestry Workers of Russia, itself an affiliate of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), after the trade union demanded a pay rise for the workers.

The members of the trade union were persuaded to leave the trade union. The union local committee received from its members their management-written proposals to leave the union that had been distributed among the employees. On 14 March, the company informed the trade union that it would stop transferring the checked-off membership fees to the trade union. The office of the local trade union committee within the company's premises had its communications cut off.

Pressure on the trade union was stopped after a solidarity campaign, initiated by the Trade Union of Forestry Workers. However, by the end of the year, the conflict was not solved as the employees' demands for a pay rise had still not been satisfied.

Union busting at Cisco Systems Russia:

Since the end of 2009, three members of LLC Cisco Systems have been in a fight with their leadership, defending their legitimate right to decent work and denouncing the violations of workers' rights. In May 2010, feeling more and more under pressure from the company, the workers established a primary trade union in LLC Cisco Systems in order to protect workers' rights on a more formal basis. Since then, the trade union members have been systematically discriminated by management and their remuneration has been cut drastically.

Anti-union propaganda and discrimination was initiated by the management of the company. The chairman of the primary trade union, Andrey Khabarov, and his colleagues have faced numerous reprimands and fines by the management of Cisco Systems. The union has petitioned the court to challenge the validity of those decisions.

On 17 March, the deputy chairman, Aydar Garipov, was dismissed. Just three days earlier, the primary union officially joined the All-Russian Trade Union of Communication Workers (CWU-ru), affiliated to FNPR. On 16 March, the Presidium of CWU-ru adopted the decision to reject the CEO's consent to Gapirov's dismissal. And yet the very next day, Gapirov was fired.

Trade union activists sent a collective appeal to the State Labour Inspectorate of Moscow concerning what they consider to be the illegal firing of Aydar Garipov. The district prosecutor's office of Zamoskvoretsky conducted the investigation, on behalf of the Prosecutor's Office of the Central Administrative District of Moscow.

Assault on trade union representatives at ALNAS: At the beginning of 2011, at the ALNAS factory producing pumps in Almetievsk (Republic of Tatarstan), an industrial dispute arose over pay. Members of the Alnas local union affiliated to the Engineering Workers' Union of Russia (EWU) (affiliated to Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR) and the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), took part in negotiations between the local trade union organisation at ALNAS and the management of the enterprise. When Lidia Pavlova, the chair of the EWU committee, and Igor Lobachev, the trade union inspector, came to Almetievsk for the meeting on 29 March, they were attacked and threatened with death if they were to come to Almetievsk again.

Union busting at Baltica – Rostov; dismissal of trade union activist:

The shop floor trade union organisation of the All Russian Trade Union of Service and Commerce Workers affiliated to the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR) and to the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) at the beer factory "Baltica-Rostov" was established in 2002. Since then the management has put a lot of pressure on union activists. They have been constantly discriminated (see Annual Survey 2011). Trade union members have denounced the expansion of different forms of precarious employment which has worsened workers' terms and conditions and is endangering good jobs. It also appears to be a part of the corporation's anti-union policy along with intimidation, pressure and dismissals of activists.

During the last four months of 2011, Baltika-Rostov fired 39 loaders. Others were fired in 2010 and by the end of 2011 only 11 loaders were on the payroll of Carlsberg in Rostov while most of the work was being performed by agency workers. The same had happened to janitors during the spring of 2011, technicians in the bottling department in 2010 and inspectors in the department of control in 2009. Earlier all workers from the constructions and equipment maintenance departments had been replaced by contractors.

In 2010, despite managers' intimidation, along with other workers, the trade union activist, Evgeniy Bykadorov, filed a complaint with the State Labour Inspection about unpaid overtime. After that, Bykadorov experienced strong pressure from management. His work was checked very often, in order to find out any inaccuracy. He got several reprimands. In spite of being nominated by the trade union, he was prevented from taking part in the negotiations on the collective agreement. Finally, Evgeniy Bykadorov was fired on 29 August 2011.

Migrant workers' union in the Arkhangelskaya region abolished:

The migrant workers' union, affiliated to the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR), in Arkhangelskaya region, headed by Dmitriy Dubonos, a citizen of Ukraine, met with pressure and repression in 2011, after the establishment of a primary union at Northern Railroad in February 2011.

Dmitriy Dubonos's permission to stay in Russia was annulled by the migration service in May. This decision was confirmed by a court in July 2011. As a citizen of Ukraine, Dubonos has to leave Russia every 90 days, and to return after that. At the same time, legal action against the migrant workers' union was started by the prosecutor's office in June 2011. On 21 October, the trade union was abolished by the court. The decision was confirmed by the Supreme Court in December 2011.

Anti-union actions at Faurecia ADP:

Faurecia ADP, controlled by the Faurecia Group, one of the largest automotive parts manufacturers in the world, is located in Luga, a city near Saint-Petersburg. A local trade union organisation of the Inter-regional Trade Union of Automobile Industry Workers (ITUA), affiliated to the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR) and the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF) was established in 2010. The chair of the local trade union, Aleksey Lyaushko, was fired after the establishment of the union. He was later reinstated to his position after a court decision.

On 27 November, a one-hour warning strike was held by the workers, after negotiations with management failed. The key demand was to raise wages, since the workers earn just USD 400-500 on average. The workers who had taken part in the strike were pressured and intimidated by the prosecutor's office in Luga the following day. A representative of the prosecutor's office, Anastasia Zorina, came to the enterprise and tried to make the workers give testimony about the strike, without an official summons.

Anti-union action at Heineken beer factory in St-Petersburg:

The conflict between Heineken management in St-Petersburg and the primary trade union of the Agro-Industrial Workers' Union (AIWU ) affiliated to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR) and to the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) began in 2009. Workers tried to bring brewery management to the bargaining table over the extent of the usage of agency labour on the site and manipulation of the way working hours were calculated, resulting in almost no overtime being paid. In spite of all the efforts made by the international trade union movement, Heineken refused to recognise the issue as an industrial dispute.

As the negotiations came to stalemate, the primary trade union scheduled a warning strike for 15 December. The management of the enterprise tried to force employees not to take part in it. Seven trade union members wrote to the trade union committee to say that they had been pressured and intimidated by the managers. The managers threatened the strikers and urged them to return to work during the strike.

The workers who went on a one-day warning strike on 15 December 2011 were later prosecuted by the company which considered the strike illegal.

Anti-union tactics including dismissals, discrimination and pressure as well as refusal to hold social dialogue at AvtoVaz:

The local union (called 'Unity') of the Inter-regional Trade Union of Automobile Industry Workers (ITUA), affiliated to the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR) and the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), reported numerous complaints from trade union members at Avto Vaz, the Russian automobile manufacturer, regarding management pressure and discrimination.

After three cases of disciplinary action were taken against her, Olga Boiko, a technical and legal inspector of Unity and chair of the shop floor trade union committee No. 3913, was dismissed for her union activity. In 2008 Olga, a paint shop worker at the plant, raised the issue of the reduction in the premium for working in hazardous conditions. The extra payment was cut after an assessment of workplaces, conducted by the management in a non-transparent manner. In 2009 the original pay level was restored. Olga Boiko, however, began to face pressure from the management.

Pressure on trade union members to leave the union remains common practice. Trade union members from shop floor union No. 2911 informed the trade union committee on the 30 May 2011 that a foreman, T.Vereina, demanded that they leave the trade union.

Trade union representatives have also been prevented from accessing workplaces. Piotr Zolotarev, chairman of the local trade union organisation of the ITUA at AvtoVaz has been denied free access to the workplaces since 2008, as well the trade union inspectors. In April 2011, his legitimate claim to get a pass to the AvtoVaz premises was again denied. Trade union representatives have to ask for special permission every time they enter the enterprise. They are then accompanied by security all the time they are inside.

Furthermore, the ITUA has been systematically prevented from taking part in drawing up the collective agreement at the enterprise since 2003.

Union busting at Yura Corporation:

At the end of 2010, workers at the South Korean company, Yura Corporation Rus LLC, in Ivangorod, formed a primary organisation of the International Metalworkers' Federation's (IMF) affiliate the Russian Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA). Over the last two months of 2010, about 200 workers joined the newly formed union. Workers decided to create a union because of their low salaries of around 11-12 thousand rubles (USD280 – USD300), including bonuses, many problems concerning their living and working conditions, the improper behaviour of managers, and non-compliance with many of the provisions of Russian labour legislation.

In January 2011, the administration of the enterprise set about trying to bust the union, immediately after it became aware of its existence. The employees were pressed to leave the union. Trade union members were deprived of bonuses, their working conditions were worsened, etc. Several trade union activists, including the chair of the union, Victor Mahnov and a trade union member, Tatiana Azarenko were fired. As a result, in July 2011, the primary trade union organisation ceased to exist.

Prevention of trade union activity at Togliatticaoutchouc: The violations of trade union rights at Togliatticaoutchouc described in the 2011 Survey (covering 2010) continued in 2011. For instance, trade union activists were prevented from distributing the trade union's newsletter within the company's premises.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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