Court declines to rule Benteler strike illegal in Russia
On April 11 the regional court in Kaluga, Russia, closed the case on the legality of Benteler strike. A successful strike at the Volkswagen supplier company opened a collective bargaining process. However, negotiations are stalled, as Benteler management tries to force the union to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
RUSSIA: On April 11 the regional court in Kaluga, Russia, closed the case on the legality of the Benteler strike organized by the Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers (ITUA), an IMF affiliate. An earlier successful strike at this Volkswagen supplier company opened a collective bargaining process. However, negotiations are stalled, as the Benteler management has tried to force the union to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Workers are under pressure to quit the union.
The strike at Benteler lasted for four days and concluded successfully. The first round of negotiations with the management took place on April 4, the second one on April 12. Representatives of the union will meet with the company for the third time today, April 19. However, the negotiations on the CBA didn’t begin properly, as management has tried to force the union activists to sign nondisclosure agreement, so that they wouldn’t be able to communicate with workers and inform them on the process of negotiations. The union is prepared to fight this move, says Alexei Nastin, president of Benteler union committee.
Earlier in 2011, Volkswagen management tried to force ITUA activists to sign the same nondisclosure agreement, however, the union was able to avoid this by informing workers on the situation and putting pressure on the management. The negotiations at Volkswagen in 2011 proved to be successful, with ITUA achieving a significant wage increase.
On April 16, Benteler director Hubert Koopmann was fined for violating Russian Labour Code, specifically, for not giving the union office space at the plant.
However, the management continues to discriminate union members. Thus, all Benteler workers weren’t paid a regular premium for March. Nonetheless, those who didn’t take part in the strike received a significant one-time bonus. Striking workers didn’t get any bonus at all, so their March wages were about 20 per cent lower than usual.
“We will negotiate for wage increases, guarantees for the union and compensations. We will stand our ground on these demands. We also plan to resolve the issue of the March bonus for striking workers, either through talks or by court,” says Alexei Nastin.
“The workers are very surprised by the actions of the management. The company promised no repercussions for the strike, however, now they hold meetings with workers, threaten them with disciplinary action or lack of promotion if they refuse to quit the union. They also misinform workers. This is what’s happening at the moment,” adds Nastin.
IMF will follow closely the developments at Benteler and take solidarity action if needed.Apr 19, 2012 – Ilya Matveev