From: Vladimir Bilenkin <achekhov@UNITY.NCSU.EDU>
Subject: Russian Labor Leader Calls For Solidarity
Date: Friday, April 07, 2000 10:20 AM

Say ‘No’ to the Labor Code of Slavery!

By Oleg Shein, Co-Chairman of the Alliance of Russian Trade Unions “Defense,” Deputy of the State Duma of Russian Federation, 6 March 2000

Dear comrades!

The Russian Government now prepares to hurry through the State Duma its new barbarous anti-worker Labor Code which will leave our working class without legal methods of struggle against the arbitrariness of new proprietors.

The governmental draft of the Labor Code emancipates the employer from the need to seek the trade union's consent for terminating the worker's employment, its approval of work schedule and workplace regulations. The

new Labor Code effectively abolishes the 8-hour work day and legal protection of trade-union activists from bosses' vengeance, legalizes unlimited overtime work without overtime pay, weakens the protection of working mothers with small children.

The labor code that the executive committee of the ruling class prepares to impose on Russian workers throws them back to the times of Tsarist Empire.

The newly elected President Putin has already announced at the meeting with the deputies of the State Duma that the government's draft of Labor Code would be send to the Duma in the near future and confidently predicted that it would be adopted.

If adopted, this Labor Code will destroy the legal foundations of trade union activities at the enterprise, all legal venues for defending the rights of workers. Independent workers' organizations—the Union “Defense” and others—capable of combating the bourgeoisie will be liquidated. This defeat of Russian workers may have grave consequences for the outcome of the working class struggles all over the world.

The trade union “Defense” has been fighting this labor code bill for the last four years and so far we managed to prevent it from passing. But now this fight is going to be much harder for us, because the new State Duma is more reactionary than the previous one.

We are preparing the All-Russian action in defense of the present Labor Code. In all likelihood, it will take place in May when the government sends its draft to the State Duma.

In counter action, I, as a deputy of the State Duma, will introduce an alternative, trade-union draft of the Labor Code which increases the rights of workers.

The defense of the present Labor Code will be the main direction of our struggle in the near future.

In this struggle, we count very much on international support from the Left and progressive forces in general. This support may include spreading truthful information about this assault on the rights of the working class people in mass media and the Internet, sending faxes and cables to the Russian government and the State Duma deputies, picketing Russian embassies and consulates.

If the government meets with a serious internal and international resistance to its anti-labor legislation there is a good chance to fend off this vicious attack of the Russian bourgeoisie.

I ask foreign comrades, labor unions, left and progressive organizations to let us know whether we can count on your help. We are working on making available all the materials pertaining to the new labor legislation shortly.

In Solidarity,

Oleg Shein,