Intelligence Brief - 14 November 2014
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Russia 'facing 1990s-style labour unrest'

Russian analysts are saying that recent labour protests in Russia have similarities to the mass labour protests that plagued Russia from 1992-98.

According to the Centre for Social and Labour Rights, the nature of labour protests in Russia has changed during the course of this year, with economic demands (wage arrears, layoffs, low pay) once again prevalent.  Analysis by the centre shows that wage arrears alone have been the cause of 40% of all registered rallies this year, up from 29% in 2013.  The Centre for Social and Labour Rights has recorded 179 labour protests in the first eight months of 2014; the All-Russian Headquarters for Protest Action says that it has recorded nearly 300 protests in the first nine months of 2014.

Another noticeable change is that labour protests are becoming less organized, with almost half of the protests recorded during the first eight months of 2014 being spontaneous.  Boris Kravchenko of the Russian Confederation of Labour warns: “In the current social and legal situation the labour protests of the 1990s remain too close a reality for us.”  He says that the possibility of holding a normal dialogue between the state and business has been lost, just as in the 1990s: “Today’s experience shows us that the time for talks has gone – now everything is solved in the most primitive way…”

Karin Kleman, the head of the Russian Institute for Collective Action told Kommersant Ogonek magazine: “As for labour protests, we have set a course for the 1990s, it is obvious.”  However, he added: “Unlike the coal-miners in the 1990s, modern workers are not ready to put up with the absence of wages for a long time.”

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