18 April, 2013The Prosecutor’s Office questions for the Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA) are at times ridiculous or irrelevant, claims the union.
On 20 March the ITUA was inspected by the authorities as part of a broader crack down on independent organizations. Alexei Etmanov, ITUA president, was given a letter specifying the documents which were requested from the union.
After the ITUA has submitted most of the documents, the Prosecutor's Office found different violations in them.
The Prosecutor's Office protested against several articles in the union Statutes. For example, the Statutes say that the meeting of the union local's governing body is legitimate if more than half of the members/delegates 'participates' in it. The authorities claim that this article violates Russian laws: it should demand that the members/delegates 'are present' at the meeting, not 'participate' in the it.
The Prosecutor’s Office also claims that the ITUA has a tax debt of 211,882 roubles and 13 copecks (some 5,200 Euros). However, the union has paid precisely the same amount of taxes (up to 13 copecks) after the Ford strike in 2008. “We have documents proving the payment of this sum. I don’t believe that coincidences like this are possible. This is either malevolent or grave error,” says Etmanov.
Finally, the union was accused of ‘violating fire safety regulations’ in its office, but this claim is also false, Etmanov explains that the ITUA only rents an office and according to the rent agreement the union is not responsible for fire safety.
Russian authorities have embarked on an unprecedented inspection of all Russian NGOs, and the ITUA, an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, is one of the victims of the state’s activity. Even so, Etmanov says the union will protest these actions. “I’m sure in our victory,” he says.