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Progress in cutting agency work at VW in Russia

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6 December, 2012The Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA), an IndustriALL affiliate, engaged in talks with Volkswagen management in Kaluga, Russia, about the rules for transferring agency workers to permanent positions. Meanwhile, at Ford in Vsevolozhsk, Russia, ITUA local struggles through the third week of the work-to-rules strike.

On 12 November ITUA met with the management of Volkswagen plant in Kaluga, Russia, to discuss the use of agency labour at the plant. Current practice is to hire new workers through the agencies, thus extending probation period, limited by Russian law to three months, up to six-nine months and more.

Earlier during the collective bargaining the union succeeded in including language on agency labour in the collective agreement. Agency workers cannot account for more than 12 per cent of the workforce.

Сurrently VW employs 560 agency workers, about 11 per cent of the total workforce. These workers are employed by a score of agencies, such as Adecco, Kelly Services, Manpower, Russian agency Kariera, etc. Their fate depends on the rules for transferring agency workers to permanent positions.

During the meeting with the management there was some progress in settling these rulers. It was suggested that workers with a year or more of experience working at the plant (excluding holidays, sick leave etc.) should be transferred to permanent positions, if they don’t have disciplinary admonitions.

There are also a designated number of permanent workers at VW plant. If actual permanent workforce is lower than that number, some agency workers can be transferred to permanent positions.

Furthermore, ITUA suggests that all agency workers should be employed through one agency only, Autovision, a VW subsidiary. In that case, there is hope that agency workers will receive the same wages and benefits as permanent workers.

Volkswagen plant in Kaluga is not yet structurally part of the Volkswagen World Works Council body and is not yet covered by the newly concluded agreement on temporary work.

Meanwhile, at the Ford plant in Vsevolozhsk, Russia, ITUA struggles through the third week of the work-to-rules strike. Among the reasons for industrial action are violations of health and safety policy, i.e. lack of proper training, as well as plans of the management to close production at the plant in mid-December and pay workers only 2/3 of their wage during the shut-down.

“Ford workers see it as a gross inappreciation of the year’s hard work”, says ITUA.

Yet another reason for the strike is management’s reluctance to begin new round of collective bargaining. The workers adopted their demands as early as 21 October, but the negotiations haven’t started yet.

The strike, which began on 12 November, costs the employer up to 40 cars a day. Workers strictly follow every health and safety rule, and on several occasions they staged a ‘donor day’. According to the Russian law, when a worker volunteers to give blood, the management should count it as a sick leave for one day. When tens of workers went to become blood donors simultaneously, production at some shops was disturbed.

Despite threats and one-to-one talks with the management, Ford workers are resolved to continue the work-to-rules strike until their demands are met. ‘The general mood’s still combative,’ says Artem Yashenkov, ITUA activist at Ford in Vsevolozhsk.