The Supreme Court of Russia overruled the verdict of the Saint Petersburg city court which on 10 January ruled to liquidate IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the Interregional Trade Union Workers’ Association (ITUWA).
On 22 May, the second session of the Supreme Court was held to judge ITUWA's appeal against its dissolution.
During the hearing, the union reported that the prosecutor's office of Saint Petersburg had never sent the list of violations with possible remedies. The prosecutor's office insisted on the most extreme measure, demanding ITUWA's dissolution, instead of the suspension of the activities of the union.
Prosecutors argued that there were irreparable violations which lead to the dissolution: Firstly, the union statutes do not specify which constituent regions of the Russian Federation are covered by the organization, which they claimed is in violation of its legal status as an interregional public organization.
Further, the prosecutor's office claimed that members of the union should be united by occupation, and ITUWA includes temporarily unemployed people, retired workers and students as well as workers. According to the union, this is not contrary to existing legislation.
Finally, the prosecutors argued that ITUWA violated the law on foreign agents in connection with political activities, such as the publication of materials against tax increases for truckers, and collecting signatures online in support of modifications to the Labour Code, and assistance from abroad.
The union pointed out that it was not subject to the legislation on foreign agents, that the publication of materials on socially significant issues was its right, and funding from IndustriALL was targeted and carried out within the normal practice of cooperation with the international trade union movement. ITUWA has been affiliated to IndustriALL since 2007.
The prosecutor's office tried to convince the Supreme Court judges that the liquidation of ITUWA was not a violation of workers' rights, but would aid the creation of a new organization that would meet all the legal requirements. The judges did not credit these arguments and overruled the earlier decision.
ITUWA will hold a congress in autumn to develop a new position on union activities, and may consider changes to the statutes.
Alexey Etmanov, president of ITUWA, says,
“My congratulations to all for the victory! This is the victory for the entire trade union movement, including IndustriALL, the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR), as well as the affiliates of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), which supported us. But we have won a battle, not a war. A luta continua! We will not allow the destruction of trade unions, our strength is in unity and solidarity”.
In January, eight FNPR affiliates of IndustriALL issued a joint statement, declaring that the Saint Petersburg city court decision not only blatantly violates the rights of workers and the trade unions representing their interests, but it also moves the proper regulation of trade union activities in Russia out of national and international legal frameworks. IndustriALL affiliates in CIS countries also expressed solidarity with ITUWA.
Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, comments,
“We welcome this decision of the Supreme Court, which confirms that the activities of ITUWA have always been genuine, legitimate and legal trade union work. However, this is not enough. We expect the Russian authorities to amend the current law on non-profit organizations to avoid such attacks against trade unions and guarantee a legal framework for their activities”.