Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia
|Full name||Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia|
|Native name||Federatsiya Nezavisimykh Profsoyuzov Rossii|
|Members||31.5 million (2002)|
|Key people||Mikhail Shmakov, president
Eugene Sidorov, international secretary
|Office location||Moscow, Russia|
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (ФНПР, FNPR, Федерация Независимых Профсоюзов России, Federatsiya Nezavisimykh Profsoyuzov Rossii) is the largest national trade union center in Russia, with a membership estimated between 28 and 31.5 million (down from 70 million at its formation). The FNPR is widely recognized as the de facto successor to the Soviet era trade unions system, although the General Confederation of Trade Unions (GFTC), as the umbrella organization of trade unions in the former Soviet Republics, is technically the equivalent of the former system.
The FNPR was established in 1990, one year before the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. After the breakup, With the exception of the military, the FNPR was one of the few national institutions to retain its power and functions. These abilities included control over the disbursement of social insurance funds, the right to contest and veto dismissal of workers, and automatic deductions, or check-offs, from employee wages.
The FNPR continued to operate in a manner similar to soviet era unions. Members included both workers and management, and often labour unrest was aimed at the government, rather than employers, in an effort to preserve the command market economy, as opposed to a free market system.
Boris Yeltsin, former President of Russia, set up the Tripartite Commission for the Regulation of Social and Labour Relations in 1992. The FNPR was given 9 of the 14 labour seats on the board, and the government soon recognized the union as its primary social partner, elevating its status against that of other trade unions.
During the Russian political crisis of October 3, 1993 the FNPR, under the leadership of Igor Klochkov, called for the defense of the Russian White House in support of Aleksandr Rutskoy and the illegally dissolved Supreme Soviet of Russia and Congress of Soviets. There was little response from workers to this call, and the consequences for the union were swift. Having passed a motion of their support for Rutskoy on September 28, Yeltsin passed a presidential decree the same day - stripping the union of its right to control and dispense social insurance funds and other benefits. Following Yeltin's victory in the White House showdown, further threats to end mandatory wage check-offs resulted in the hurried removal of Klochkov from leadership. He was replaced on October 11, by Mikhail Shmakov, who has maintained the post through to the present date.
Although the control of the Social Insurance fund was placed with the Labour Ministry, in reality there was little change to the administration.
In 1998 Russia was hit by a severe financial crisis, and the FNPR was again at odds with Yeltsin, calling for his resignation in an open letter. The union preferred Yevgeny Primakov, the dismissed prime minister, and the Otechestvo coalition. However, this support appears to have been relatively weak, as regional trade unions had their own positions and interests, and it was Vladimir Putin who was appointed Prime Minister, and then Acting President, four months later.
In 2001 a new labour code was introduced in the State Duma. It was strongly opposed by all but one of the trade unions. As well, in a July 9 speech to the Federal Assembly, Putin stated that there was no longer a need for the Trade Unions to perform state functions such as the distribution of social benefits.
The union and the AFL-CIO
Given the tensions between the USSR and the United States, it is little wonder that there was considerable suspicion from western trade unions toward the FNPR. The AFL-CIO, through its Free Trade Union Institute, operated within Russia, running programs to support independent unions that were opposed to the FNPR. These programs wound down with a change of leadership in the AFL-CIO in 1995, and in 1997 Shmakov was invited to attend the AFL-CIO congress.
The Union and ITUC
The FNPR was granted observer status in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (now the International Trade Union Confederation) in April, 2000, and was accepted as an affiliated member in November of the same year. Since affiliation the FNPR has been active in supporting ITUC in the area, providing facilities for an ITUC regional office.
- ICTUR et al.,, ed. (2005). Trade Unions of the World (6th ed.). London, UK: John Harper Publishing. ISBN 0-9543811-5-7.
- Ashwin, Sarah; Clarke, Simon. Russian Trade Unions and Industrial Relations in Transition (pdf). Retrieved 2006-05-29.
- Clarke, Simon (June 2001). "Russian Trade Unions in the 1999 Duma Election". Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics. 17 (2): 43–40. doi:10.1080/714003573. Retrieved 2006-05-29.
- FNPR official site. (In Russian)