Oligarchs Back Disputed Labor Code

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs the trade union of the oligarchs has decided to try to overcome the resistance of real trade unions to the governments proposed new Labor Code and push it through the State Duma.

It is the first time the countrys biggest entrepreneurs from a variety of sectors have come forward in a united front to publicly lobby parliament.

At the last meeting of the unions board of directors Wednesday, a working group was formed to represent the interests of business in regard to the new Labor Code. The majority of the boards members expressed their support for the governments version of the code, which would diminish the role of unions and make it easier to fire workers.

After labor leaders objected to measures in the governments proposed code, pro-union Duma members offered an alternative proposal. A Duma working group headed by Pyotr Romanov, deputy speaker from the Communist Party, is to take up both versions for discussion. It is to begin work Jan. 22 and is expected to reach a compromise by the end of spring.

The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, headed by Arkady Volsky, began a new stage last fall when 20 leading entrepreneurs joined its board of directors. Among them were Kakha Bendukidze, Oleg Deripaska, Alexander Mamut, Vladimir Potanin, Mikhail Fridman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Anatoly Chubais. The Kremlin administration gave its blessing to the union, which it happily refers to as the trade union of the oligarchs.

The union is separate from the Council of Enterprises, which comprises about two dozen businessmen but none of the oligarchs.

Oleg Yeremeyev heads the unions working group on the Labor Code. He previously held a management position in Interros and is currently general director of the coordinating council of the Union of Employers.

Igor Yurgens, president of the All-Russia Union of Insurers, said although he supports the governments version, "I think that we will also have to take into consideration the concerns of the trade unions."

Yevgeny Gontmakher, director of the governments department of social development, applauded the industrialists for taking a position on the Labor Code, but said their impact will depend on whether the Duma allows them to join the Duma working group.

The chairman of the Dumas labor committee, Andrei Isayev, said employers representatives should be included in the discussion but they should be selected not by the industrialists union but by a government commission. "There are many associations of employers," Isayev said. "If every one of those associations independently sends representatives to our group, we will be discussing the Labor Code for a long time."

Yurgens countered: "If he believes that representatives of the Union of Industrialists are not needed in that group, they could try to adopt the code without the union. Lets see how it turns out. It seems to me that it is essential to seek the opinions of entrepreneurs, given that the present composition of the Union of Industrialists makes up 80 percent of GDP."

http://www.gov.ru-main-page4.html Download the government's proposed labor code.

http://www.trud.org Labor movement site.