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Electricity workers speak up in Russia

21 February, 2013More than 500 electricity workers from across Russia gathered in central Moscow on 20 February to demand 25 per cent wage rise.

All-Russian Electric Trade Union (ARETU), an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, held a massive rally in central Moscow on 20 February to demand 25 per cent wage hike and raise awareness about perisistent problems in the energy sector.

ARETU is in the process of signing a national collective agreement for 2013 with the employers’ association, however, the negotiations are stalled.

The wages in the industry have been stagnant for many years, with a sharp decline in real income, sometimes up to 30-40 per cent. Average wage of electricty workers in Russia is just 500-800 USD, contrary to the Ministry estimates of 1300 USD.

Leaders of union locals from different Russian regions — Caucasus, Central and Northern Russia, Siberia, Far East — expressed their anger and frustration over the same problems: inadequate wages, lack of proper equipment repair, constantly rising workload.

"Everyone seems to think electricity is a given, like sunshine. Just plug your lamp and here’s your light," said one speaker.

This is not the first public action for ARETU in the current negotiations round. On 15 November 2012, the union held a rally and two pickets in Moscow, as well as a press conference.

On 19 February IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina wrote to the Energy Minister as well as Prime Minister of Russia, expressing his concern over the problems in the energy sector, extending his solidarity to ARETU’s demands and urging the authorities to act on the problems of the sector.

As a show of solidarity, leaders of the Miners' & Metallurgical Workers' Union of Russia (MMWU) and the Russian Chemical Workers' Union (RCWU), both IndustriALL affiliates, attended the rally.

"Strikes are not prohibited in our sector. In certain conditions, they are indeed a possibility. We are ready to take that step," commented ARETU president Valery Vakhrushkin to the central union newspaper Solidarnost (Solidarity) after the rally.