Russia: Moscow goes into lockdown, unions brace for COVID-19 impact

31 March 2020 08:35

On 30 March, the Russian capital, Moscow, was put under a city-wide lockdown in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the country. While Russia has been relatively spared by the pandemic, the number of people testing positive has risen quickly. 

Before this, the Russian government on 25 March announced that all workers in non-essential industries will receive paid leave from 28th of March until the 3rd of April. This is reportedly one of the measures put in place by the government to help workers endure the health crisis. 

For their part, Russian trade unions joined hands in developing a  strategy to ensure workers’ rights, support their members, and keep their unions functioning during the crisis. Currently, many unions are facing difficulties as many of their regional union branches go through the period of compulsory statutory union meetings, which are now impossible to organise under a lockdown. The Russian Timber Workers Union (RTWU), for example, said that in the coming months, regional branches have to hold compulsory statutory meetings to elect governing bodies. These meetings normally bring together over 100 delegates. 

Despite the challenges, the RTWU reported that they were able to prepare an information guide for its members on their job and income security, alternative ways to conduct statutory meetings and instructions on how to sustain the “Decent Work in Forestry” campaign amid the quarantine. 

The information guide provided an extensive legal analysis of workers’ rights during the COVID-induced mandatory leave and lockdown, including payment of wages. The union stressed that if employers would force workers to go on unpaid leave or if they would terminate their employment contracts because of the pandemic, the unions on the plant-level should immediately notify state authorities and the National Trade Union Centre.

To sustain its “Decent Work in Forestry” campaign, the unions will develop an online campaign strategy. The unions will also consolidate all the signed petitions that were sent by their regional branches in support of the advocacy, which will then be forwarded to the government.  

Latest information about union activities during COVID -19 crisis will be published on their respective union websites and social media platforms. The National Trade Union Centre called on the regional branches to maintain regular communication with their members and colleagues using all possible communication platforms.