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Union under attack at Bashneft in Russia

20 December, 2012Bashneft management is striving to wipe out locals of the Russian Chemical and Allied Workers Union (RCWU) at its plants and replace them with so-called Labour Councils, company-controlled bodies. IndustriALL-affiliated RCWU is fighting back with a national campaign of protest.

Bashneft is one of the largest oil companies in Russia with revenue in the tens of billions of dollars and over 8,000 workers. The huge company is in the process of reorganizing its subsidiaries making them part of the overall structure, and is at the same time escalating an anti-union policy.

The company is refusing to renegotiate collective agreements with RCWU locals, creating its own Labour Councils instead.

Soon after reorganization in October 2012 when the company Bashkirnefteproduct in Ufa, Russia, became part of the parent company Bashneft, the management refused to renegotiate the CBA with the RCWU local and challenged its right to collective bargaining.

“When the legal status of our company changed, we had to renegotiate a collective agreement. However, when the union tried to do so, my authority to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of the workers was challenged for the first time in 14 years,” says Zumara Ganieva, president of the RCWU local at Bashneft’s Ufa plant.

At the same time the management created a Labour Council as a representative body for the workers, despite the fact that 76 per cent of the workforce is unionized. Local management has since pressured workers to quit the union, threatening them with dismissal.

The very same policy was adopted at another Bashneft subsidiary Orenburgnefteproduct in Orenburg, Russia, recently purchased. The management refuses to renegotiate a CBA, while creating its own Labour Council to replace the RCWU local at the plant.

In response RCWU held pickets both in Ufa and Orenburg. On 14 December 30 activists took part in the action in Orenburg, and over 200 workers picketed company offices in Ufa, despite freezing temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius. The protesters demanded that Bashneft recognize the union and abandon its Labour Council policy.

RCWU president Alexander Sitnov said the union was to launch a national solidarity campaign. He also expressed hope that the international labour movement will offer its solidarity to Bashneft unions.