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Russian oil and gas workers fight back attack on their rights

31 October, 2013IndustriALL affiliate Russian Oil, Gas and Construction Workers Union (ROGWU) wins the battle for the workers’ right to set their union structure according to their own decision.

On 24 October 2013 the Constitutional Court of Russian Federation issued a verdict in favour of ROGWU’s complaint against violation of its rights by the Gagarin district court of Moscow, Ministry of Justice, Office of the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Court of Russian Federation. The case also sets the precedent for other Russian unions who can now build their structure according to their internal decisions.

The story began two years ago when ROGWU Congress introduced changes into ROGWU statutes referring to internal structure of the union. According to the national law Ministry of Justice has to formally approve new statutes, if those do not violate federal law, without any preconditions, and with reference to the international legal obligations of Russia, in this case particularly to the ratified fundamental ILO conventions 87 and 98.

Unfortunately the Ministry of Justice decided to interpret the article in the Law on Trade Unions named "Basic Definitions" as an exhaustive list of allowed union structures. The Ministry addressed a complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor General, which urged regional court to file a legal case. Consequently ROGWU received a verdict urging it to dissolve many of its structures created over past 20 years by the union in order to maintain collective bargaining and social dialogue with permanently emerging business units and structures. De facto this court ruling undermined union capacity to fulfil its main functions.

ROGWU interpreted this verdict as an interference with their fundamental rights guaranteed by the Russian Constitution, Russian law and basic ILO Conventions ratified by Russia. None of the complaints filed by ROGWU have found support in either the Supreme Court or the Office of Prosecutor General. Finally, the union brought the issue up to the Constitutional Court of Russia and simultaneously reported the case with the ILO Workers' group as part of the IndustriALL delegation at the International Labour Conference in Geneva in June 2013.

On the eve of the hearings in the Constitutional Court Jyrki Raina, Secretary General of IndustriAll sent a letter to the Constitutional Court of Russia supporting the international legal expertise regarding the ROGWU case and urging Constitutional Court to restore the rule of law and bring justice to labour relations in Russia.

The result is that the Constitutional Court of Russia qualified actions of the Ministry of Justice, Office of Prosecutor General, Gagarin district court of Moscow and Supreme Court as anti-constitutional interference into the union affairs, violation of the Russian law and international obligation of Russia and demanded unconditional and just revision of the earlier verdicts.