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Russian nickel plant workers are ready to strike

25 June, 2014Workers at the Buruktal Nickel Plant (BNP) in Russia are getting ready to strike after the company failed to sign a collective agreement for 2014-2016. It is the fourth labour dispute with BNP in the last five years.

Miners' & Metallurgical Workers' Union of Russia (MMWU), one of IndustriALL Global Union’s largest Russian affiliates, represents the interests of BNP employees.

Repeating the pattern of previous years, BNP has refused to sign a collective agreement, increase wages or revise salaries in line with inflation. The Ministry of Labour and Employment in the Orenburg region, where the plant is based, has registered the collective labour dispute and a conciliatory commission has been created to deal with the conflict.

If the conciliatory commission fails to settle the labour dispute, union members will act through labour arbitration or will call a strike as has happened every year but one since the first collective agreement in 2009 when a local MMWU was created at BNP.

The first meeting of the conciliatory commission took place on 17 June, with another meeting planned on 2 July. In addition to employees, management, owner representatives and the local head of administration will take part in the work of the commission.

On 20 May workers at a general assembly of employees put forward their demands to BNP asking for a conclusion of the collective agreement for 2014-2016, a 50 per cent wage increase, and a full indexation of the salary for 2012-2013.

In three previous disputes, all workers’ demands were satisfied in full. However, in 2013, due to a downturn in the market for non-ferrous metals, workers agreed to freeze their wages and didn’t claim wage adjustment even though the average salary together with compensations for harmful working conditions did not reach even the minimum level stipulated in the newly concluded sector collective agreement. In the end, the 2013 collective agreement wasn’t signed, and the agreement of 2012 was automatically prolonged.

Should the union find there have been violations of labour law and workers’ rights at the Buruktal Nickel Plant, the company could become subject to supervision by the public prosecutor.