Staunton, November 22 – In the last several years, Rosstat, the Russian state statistical agency, has reported only a handful of strikes and other work actions in the Russian Federation. The action number is more than a hundred times that. But Moscow is confident that few will track down all the cases or will dismiss any reports of a larger number as anecdotal.
“If you believe official statistics, the number of strikes in Russia is a mere handful,” EurasiaNet reports; in 2017, Rosstat said there was only one; in 2013-2016, two to five a year. That compares to 2600 strikes reported in 2005, and 6300 in 1992 (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-статистика-властей-умалчивает-о-сотнях-забастовок).
The reports seem implausible on their face: Russian wages average 37,600 rubles (568 US dollars) a month, and 30.5 percent of all Russian workers are members of unions, far more than in most other countries. In France, where strikes are frequent, only 7.9 percent of all employed are union members.
And they are completely contradicted by Russian experts at the Center for Social-Labor Rights.According to that institutions, there were an average of 241 protests a year between 2008 and 2014, 409 labor actions of various kinds in 2015, 419 in 2016, 33 in 2017, and “no fewer than 122 labor protests” so far in 2018 (trudprava.ru/expert/analytics/protestanalyt/2068).
Strikes are not illegal in Russia. In fact, the right to strike is guaranteed by the Constitution. But Russian laws and government practice make it hard for workers to defend their interests. On the one hand, existing laws set up a variety of barriers against union actions and of protections for employers.
And on the other, the courts often rule strikes illegal on the application of the employers; and the government sends in police to intimidate workers, underscoring what the Center says is a clear tilt by the regime toward business as opposed to labor.
The Center reports that more than half of all labor actions concern non-payment of wages, a problem typical of the situation in the 1990s and that the current regime has been at pains to suggest has been largely solved. That is clearly not the case. Moreover, it is not the case, despite Rosstat’s figures, that workers in Russia are completely passive.
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