An important legal victory for the ITUWA this week set a precedent in the fight against precarious temporary contracts in the region’s auto-industry.
On 9 February the Kaluga Regional Court took the decision to reinstate in their jobs two female employees fired when their short-term employment contracts expired at the PCMA Rus automotive plant in Kaluga, Russia. Short-term contracts have been widely practiced at the plant during the last two years as they allow the employer to manipulate workers’ rights and to get rid of unwanted employees at the end of their short-term contracts at no additional cost.
Almost two years ago the PCMA Rus (Peugeot Citroen Mitsubishi Automobiles Rus) plant that assembles Peugeot, Citroen and Mitsubishi cars stopped employing workers via permanent employment contracts. The workers for core operations have only been employed on the basis of short-term contracts for the period of three to six months. Later on these contracts have either been extended for another short term keeping the employees in uncertainty, or the workers got fired when the short-term contract expired.
As there is a limited list of reasons to legally conclude short-term contracts according to the Labour Code of Russia, the formal reason that PCMA Rus used to employ short-term workers was a "temporary expansion of production". This reason has been used for the past two years, despite the fact that the Labour Code allows such expansion for up to one year only. At the same time the duties of short-term employees were exactly the same as the duties of workers on permanent contracts.
Permanent workers are slowly being replaced by temporary workers on the pretext of temporary expansion. At the moment nearly 40 per cent of the PCMA Rus plant employees are working on the basis of short-term contracts.
ITUWA has repeatedly opposed this practice, as the short-term contract is a powerful tool for the management to fire any worker for any reason, including their union membership, by not extending the contract for another term.
This is exactly what happened to two PCMA Rus female employees who joined the ITUWA local union, and as a result the employer refused to prolong their short-term contracts. However, the union appealed to the court claiming the dismissals illegal. Both female employees were reinstated by court decision and their employment is now recognized as permanent.
This court decision is very important as it stops the practice of short-term contracts which was promoted persistently by the PCMA Rus management and supported by local authorities. Earlier the Prosecutor of Kaluga and the Kaluga District Court recognized the dismissal of employees "after the expiration of a short-term contract" as legal and reasonable, and they also confirmed the possibility to use short-term contracts at the PCMA Rus plant, which gave the wrong signal to managers of many Kaluga enterprises who started developing programs to introduce short-term contracts at their enterprises.
ITUWA union activists are sure that this important victory in the struggle against temporary work is just the beginning of a mass transfer of short-term contracts into permanent contracts at the PCMA Rus plant. It is necessary to stop the expansion of temporary employment that is so convenient for the business, but can lead to the extinction of permanent employment in the Kaluga region.