AFP. 31 January 2002. New Russian labour code to boost business climate.
MOSCOW -- A new Russian labour code broadly favourable to employers comes into effect on Friday, replacing Soviet-era legislation seen as an impediment to restructuring the economy. Independent trade unions, which see their role reduced and their right to strike limited by the new code, have protested at the bill signed into law by President Vladimir Putin earlier this month. The code eases existing restrictions on private companies hiring and firing employees. The Russian state is still by far the largest single employer of the country's 87 million-strong active population. It also establishes a minimum wage equal to the official subsistence level, currently set at the equivalent of around 55 dollars (64 euros). The new code was opposed by the Communist Party and the more combative independent unions as too business-friendly. Radical deputy Oleg Shein charged that "the right to strike has been scrapped." Referring to the stringent conditions set for calling a strike, he said the new code "favours employers, and the state, which is also an employer, has proved to be a lot harsher than any head of a private company." The labour code is to be examined again in a year with a view to possible amendments, and the independent unions, preparing to rally political support, were already anticipating a sharp reaction from the shop floor. "This is a return to the 19th century," said Sergei Khramov of the Sotsprof union, created 13 years ago and now claiming 450,000 members. "When people understand what the new code means, there will be spontaneous protests," Khramov said. Others however saw little prospect of wide-spread opposition. "Fifteen percent of Russians say they are prepared to protest, but the real figure is a lot lower. Employees are more dependant than ever on their employers. Particularly in the provinces, people are clinging on to their jobs," sociologist Yury Levada commented. Employers have praised the new code but found it less radical than they would have liked. "It's a step forward," Sergei Gorkov of the Yukos oil company said. The labour code is one of a broad package of reforms encompassing the pension fund system, urban land sales, and tax and social security regulations introduced over the past 18 months with a view to creating a more business-friendly legislative framework. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Barry Stoller http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ProletarianNews