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Russian unions join forces to negotiate collective agreement at Volkswagen

18 January, 2019Two IndustriALL affiliates will jointly negotiate a collective agreement at Volkswagen plants in Kaluga and Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, after putting aside their differences to hold a joint organizing campaign, allowing them to achieve the legal recognition threshold. Negotiations are scheduled to begin on 1 February.

In January 2019, the two largest trade unions at Volkswagen - the Automobile and Farm Machinery Workers' Union of Russia (AFW) and Interregional Trade Union "Workers Association" (ITUWA) - united more than 50 per cent of plant workers as a result of active campaigning, which lasted for five months. ITUWA has increased its membership from 865 to 1,760 and the AFW from 420 to 883 members. According to Russian law, trade unions covering more than 50 per cent of workers have the right to initiate collective bargaining.

The new collective agreement aims to significantly improve the position of employees. The main issues for negotiations with the employer will be a wage increase of more than 20 per cent, as well as the creation of a permanent worker’s representative body drawn from the two trade unions.

The president of ITUWA Dmitry Trudovoj said,

“Despite the fact that the threshold of 50 per cent has finally been achieved by two trade unions, we urge the labour collective not to rest on its oars. This has only given us the opportunity to begin the procedure of negotiations. We expect strong resistance, so negotiators will need support, including possible collective action”.

Previously, trade unions competed for a long time at the enterprise level. Positive changes took place last summer. IndustriALL Global Union invited the presidents of its affiliates to a dialogue, which laid the foundation for further cooperation.

President of AFW Andrey Fefelov stated,

“All that has been achieved now happened largely due to the efforts of IndustriALL and IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches. We have come to understanding that we need to stop the information war and to move to social partnership. It brought a significant result”.

The next important step for the trade unions will be the creation of a single representative body. It will include activists of both trade unions.

Vadim Borisov, regional secretary of IndustriALL, comments:

“We welcome the fact that our affiliates have found common ground. For Russia and for the entire post-Soviet space, we have received a unique experience of a joint organizing campaign”.