Summary of the activity of the Federation of Trade unions of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region

There are 43 trade union organizations, functioning at the territory of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region, that are united voluntarily in the Federation of Trade Unions of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region. The Federation unifies about 750 000 union members working in various sectors of economy, science and culture.


The Performance and Principal Guidelines for Future Activity

Thanks to trade unions, in 2003 another 20 thousand people started to receive wages higher than the subsistence wage level. All in all, the average wage rose by 25% in the city and by 32% in the Leningrad region. At that, the employment figures remain the same. The unemployment in Saint Petersburg is 0,7% of the economically active population and that in the region is 1%. These results are based on the general rise in Russia’s industrial output. The technique of achieving the positive results remains the same: trade unions used to opt for peaceful settlement through all kinds of negotiating and bargaining. If the negotiations failed the trade unions used to launch actions of protest.

In 2003 unions were facing more challenges. Union committees took a more proactive approach while defending the rights of the employees at the bankrupted enterprises. It was not only the wage arrears that kept growing there, but there were also arrears of membership fee transfers. Bankruptcy administrators tend to assign low priority status to membership fees transfers, but the trade unions work for the membership fees to be transferred ahead of other claims paid, together with the wage arrears paid to the employees, since membership fees are part of the wages voluntarily handed over to unions.

It is more frequently now than before that the representatives of trade union committees turn to the Federation for assistance regarding their economic activity, like running their real estate, i.e. their clubs and cultural establishments.

Another pressing problem is to oppose the ban on union activities at some enterprises. The bans are not always direct and straightforward, as for example, at McDonald’s restaurants chain. The administrations of some enterprises are subtler than that. The employees are convinced to terminate their membership, being offered material and other benefits, at that the promises are often left unfulfilled. Sometimes top-managers instigate the allegedly voluntary but in reality forced dissolution of a trade union by means of the so-called self-liquidation.

There is an established practice in Russia of transferring membership fees through financial bodies of an enterprise. Related to that there is another problem trade unions face. Sometimes the management of even well-to-do enterprises fail to transfer membership fees to trade union committee and higher trade union organizations despite the appropriate statements from the employees. The Federation stands against that kind of financial choking of unions.

In June 2003 we launched the “Trade Unions against Child Labour” project within the ILO International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC). It is unlikely that under-aged labor is used contrary to the labor code at the unionized enterprises. However, the problem of child labor in the region remains the same. About 16 thousand children in St. Petersburg and another thousand children in the Leningrad Region are engaged in various forms of street labor and have practically severed all ties with their families and school. While negotiating for social partnership agreements trade unions will be looking for specific actions to be undertaken by the City and the Region authorities and the unions of employers to eliminate this anti-social phenomenon.

In 2003 the trade unions got involved in the Pension System Reform. We are still concerned about the authorities actions aimed at its implementation. People are quite unaware of the changes in the pension plan policy. It is necessary to put in place an effective trade union control over the pension plan contributions, and this mission of trade unions should be stipulated by collective agreements.


For Favorable Social Environment

One of the main tasks of the Federation of Trade Unions of Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Region for 2004 is to form the favorable social environment with the human rights priority recognized and peaceful solution of interest conflicts. It is true that due to the scope of its functional responsibilities trade unions hold a certain place in the system of social and labor relations in the society. Trade unions have become an indispensable element of the democratic society of the market economy, the guarantor of economic democracy and the center of force, representing the interests of the hired labor.  

The human rights activity of trade unions contributes to establishing the priority of law in the society.


Top Priority

The core mission of trade unions is to protect the rights and interests of employees with respect to their wages, employment, labor protection and social security. Trade unions will keep on acting to create such a situation in the country and in the region as to ensure that each productively working person could be getting a decent salary. In this respect in 2004 unions are to change the minimum wage targets. The reference point should be not the subsistence minimum, but the monthly minimum consumer budget, which is now 7,000 RUR (appr. 245 USD). Regarding the employment, the attitude of trade unions remains unchanged: the number of the employed should be retained by all means.

As far as labor protection is concerned, trade unions shall urge the parties of the social partnership to implement measures, aimed at management of technogenic loads, preservation and restoration of resources, replacement of harmful and hazardous technologies with safe ones, timely elaboration and correction of effluent and waste guidelines.


Elections. Relationship with Authorities

It is a well-known fact that there is no provision made in the Russian legislation and in the Main Guidelines of the Federation Activity for 2001-2006 for direct involvement of trade unions in the political life of Russia. However, the specific social and economic situation in the country makes the trade unions deal with political problems.

There were a number of election campaigns in the region last year in which trade unions took some part. On the whole, the results of the elections could be considered successful. It was those candidates who won, who had concluded the Agreements on Cooperation with the trade unions.

The trade unions used the election campaigns as a PR instrument to create a system of businesslike cooperation with the state authority and local administration bodies to improve the social protection of the hired labor. There is an Agreement between the Federation of Trade Unions and the Legislative Assembly of the Leningrad Region and the Agreement implementation scheme is being created now. In the future some efforts will be undertaken to make a comprehensive streamlined system dealing with legislative bodies, deputies and political parties. Trade unions do not shun “lobbying”; this is a civilized political process. Furthermore, unions are obliged to vigorously lobby deputies to accomplish missions assigned to them by hundred thousand members of trade unions.


Do the Trade Unions Need their Own Party?

There are two approaches to answer this question. Trade unions either create their own party from the scratch or infiltrate into the already existing one. The first option makes sense when the party is set up. In this case the organizational structure, ideology and the entire infrastructure in general are needed. The infiltration option provides for saturation of the existing party with members whose views match the ideology of trade unions; hence the party is turned into a trade union party.

On the whole, our strategic mission is not to accept the rules of a game enforced on us from “the top”, but to establish businesslike and equal relations in the party we are going to cooperate with. This is our major objective.

Our Strength is Unity and Solidarity

The modern economic development with further going integration in the world economy brings about the creation of new industrial amalgamations: holdings, financial and industrial groups, syndicates, etc. Incorporated into their structures are the enterprises of various branches of economy. Such a situation makes the trade unions look for new forms of work, different from the previously adopted ones. The most important thing is to prevent the solution of organizational unity of the trade union members. It is only by the joint efforts that the trade unions could successfully accomplish their strategic missions. The strength of the trade unions rests with their unity and solidarity.

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