This document contains the following materials:

Application to the Westminster Foundation for support for the establishment of an information-analytical centre

Report on activities August to December 1995

Report on activities December 1995 to February 1996

Report on activities March to May 1996

Report on activities June to August 1996

The establishment of an information-analytical centre servicing the trade unions in the Russian coal-mining industry.

Background to the proposal

The Russian coal-miners have played a decisive role in the process of political change in Russia, with the nationwide strikes of 1989 and 1991 and the subsequent support provided to Eltsin and the reform process. This support has worn very thin since 1993 as the economic position in the coalfields has deteriorated, with delays in the payment of wages, deteriorating working conditions, and increasing insecurity as to the future of the industry leading to increasing social tension, expressed in deteriorating labour discipline, growing levels of crime and alcoholism, and wildcat strikes, as well as in more directly political forms. In the December 1993 elections Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party secured 40% of the vote in the mining towns hardest hit by reform (Anzhero-Sudzhensk and Prokopevsk), since when the LDPR, the Russian Communist Party, and the Russian Communist Workers' Party have all been organising energetically in the coalfields, where they have strong support in the ranks of senior management.

The alienation of the miners also has direct implications for the process of economic reform. The attempt to reform the industry 'from above', in the form of cuts in subsidy and massive mine closures, sponsored by the World Bank and other international agencies, has merely provoked a counter-reaction from below, forcing the workers further into the arms of their conservative managers, and steadily raising the economic cost of buying-off the miners - as a result of a nation-wide one day strike on February 8th 1995, backed and co-ordinated by management, the budget allocation for the subsidisation of the coal-mining industry was increased from 6.4 to 10.2 trillion roubles for 1995, an increase of almost one billion dollars in the budget deficit. However, this money, far from being used to restructure the industry and improve the living and working conditions of the miners, will continue to be used by management only further to postpone reforms.

The regional and national leaders of both trade unions in the industry, the former 'official' Independent Trade Union of Coal-Mining Employees (NPRUP) and the new Independent Miners' Union (NPG), emerged from the workers' movement of 1989-91 and are strongly and sincerely committed to political and (moderate) economic reform, as the only way to improve the living and working conditions of their members. However, despite the commitment of their leaders, and a very substantial input of Western training and advice to the trade unions in the industry, the trade unions are still unable to provide effective channels through which the interests of the workers in the industry can be expressed and articulated and through which the resolution of their problems can be negotiated. This leaves a space within which demagogues, such as Zhirinovskii, can claim to represent the political interests of miners, while the conservative management of the industry can claim to represent their economic interests.

The absence of effective trade union representation in the industry has three principal sources. First, the division between the two trade unions, which has a creative dimension in that they have to compete for members, but which is easily exploited by management for its own conservative ends. Second, the divisions introduced into the industry by the government's restructuring proposals, which have classified pits into four categories, defined by their short and long-term economic prospects. Third, and most fundamental, is the lack of commmunication between the rank and file trade union member and local union leaders and the regional and national leadership of the trade union which impedes the process of policy formation. This lack of communication is determined not so much by the absence of democratic structures within the trade union as by the character of workplace trade unionism, in which the union is closely integrated into management structures.

The regional and national leaders of both unions are well aware of the need to strengthen their links with the membership base, and to improve the flow of information so that they are able to anticipate and respond to the needs and aspirations of their members, but neither union has the resources, facilities or expertise to establish their own research departments to carry out this work. The proposed project is to establish an independent information-analytical centre which can work alongside and inform the decision-making structures of both trade unions by providing the research base on which the unions can make policy and strategic decisions around which the employees of the industry can unify.

The proposal arises out of our own extensive research into trade unionism in the Russian coalfields and our close collaboration with both trade unions at regional and national level, in addition to our long experience of co-operation with British trade unions, particularly in the areas of research and education. On the basis of pilot research projects which we have carried out in Cherkasovskaya, Anzherskaya and Sudhenskaya mines in Kuzbass over the past nine months, the leaders of both trade unions have strongly supported the proposal to establish an information-analytical centre which would be independent of both unions and able to provide impartial information and advice based on sound research at the local level. While this research will be of value in itself, the main purpose is to feed into the process of democratisation of trade union representation in the industry by providing a basis on which the trade unions are able to collaborate in developing proposals and programmes which can overcome the divisions between the two unions and between different mines and coalfields and so respond to their members' common aspirations.

An information-analytical centre for the coal-mining industry.

The proposal for an information-analytical centre arose out of the requests of both trade unions for such a facility, to be able to monitor local economic, social and political developments in the coalfields; to conduct rapid and intensive pieces of 'fire-fighting' research when conflicts flare up; and on this basis to make policy proposals to the trade unions. The trade unions have particularly asked for research to focus in the first instance on a comparative study of economic conditions, employment changes and labour relations in a sample of mines drawn from each of the four categories into which the government has divided the mines: those unable to cover operating costs, which are scheduled for closure; those requiring substantial subsidies, which will have to raise productivity if they are to secure new investment; those which could be profitable with new investment; and those which are currently profitable. The purpose of this research is to help the trade unions to generate restructuring proposals which can unify the labour force by reconciling demands for operating subsidies with demands for new investment, and reconcile demands for higher productivity and better living and working conditions from those who will remain in employment with demands for the social protection of those liable to redundancy and of vulnerable sections of the local population.


Report to the Westminster Foundation on the activities of the Information-Analytical Centre for Social Questions of the Coal Industry of the Institute for Comparative Labour Relations Research (ISITO).

September to November 1995.

The Information-Analytical Centre was established at the beginning of September on the basis of funding generously provided by the Westminster Foundation. The period under review has been a difficult and tense one for the coal-mining industry, with widespread strikes over the non-payment of wages, with ‘wild’ mine closures, with negotiations with the World Bank over the provision of a social adjustment loan, with negotiations between the industry and the government over the payment of the 1995 subsidy and the basis of subsidisation for 1996, with a dispute between the ‘reformers’ in the Ministry of Economics and the ‘bureaucrats’ of the industry over the future management structure of the industry, with the first signs of significant conflict emerging between the management of the industry (Rosugol’) and the trade unions, and with the inevitable uncertainty connected with the signing of the tariff agreement for 1996 in the run-up to the duma elections.

The main priority of the Centre in this period has been to contribute to the constructive resolution of the various problems confronting the employees of the industry, and in particular to facilitate the united response of the two trade unions in the industry in the face of growing attempts to set one against the other. It has sought to achieve this by conducting research, and by preparing reports and recommendations for the trade unions at local and national level.

Work programme

During the first three months of its existence the Centre has carried out the following programme of work:

1. Compilation and circulation of a data base covering events in the coal industry in Kuzbass on the basis of local and regional newspapers (this is not necessary in Vorkuta, since there there is only one newspaper, Zapolyar’e).

2. Research into the problem of mine closures and preparation of proposals to establish a programme of re-deployment of those dismissed from closing mines (based on research into Shevyakova mine, Mezhdurechensk, Kuzbass, financed by the local coal industry).

3. Preparation of a report on the closure of three mines — Khalmer-Yu (Vorkuta), Dimitrova and Yuzhnaya (Kuzbass) — drawing out the wider lessons.

4. Observation and analysis of the actions of the Mezhdurechensk Strike Committee.

5. Research into the problems of employment and willingness to migrate in relation to the preparations to close mines in Vorkuta and Kuzbass (based on survey research carried out be research groups commissioned by the World Bank).

6. Direct consultation given to Vyacheslav Sharipov, president of the Independent Miners’ Union, Kuzbass, in connection with his campaign for election to the state duma.

7. Direct consultation given to Gennady Mikhailets, president of the Kuzbass region of the ‘official union’, Rosugleprof, on the problems of mine closures and the working out of a social programme for the employees of these mines.

8. Consultation requested jointly by the presidents of Rosugleprof and NPG Vorkuta on the problems of the closure of enterprises and the transfer of pensioners of the coal mining industry from Vorkuta to central Russia.

Dissemination of results

The urgency of the problems facing the industry has meant that practical work of the information-analytical centre has taken priority over organisational activity. Nevertheless a network of reliable informants has been established in Kuzbass and in Vorkuta, who will constantly monitor press and broadcast reports and will be ready to conduct further research (interviews, observation) as requested to ensure that accurate information is rapidly available to the centre. Arrangements are also under way to publish a quarterly ISITO bulletin, which will be able to disseminate the results of ISITO’s work more widely. The first issue should be ready for the end of November. Access to the pages of other newspapers and information bulletins has also been negotiated.

At the request of NPG and Rosugleprof the information-analytical centre presented a report to both trade unions, laying out practical recommendations based on its sociological research, covering the following themes:

1. Analytical account of the closure of Promyshlennaya mine, Vorkuta, and its social consequences.

2. Political orientation of the local population of Samara and Kuzbass, with particular reference to the miners’ movement (based on a survey of the population financed by Rosugleprof).

3. The implications of restructuring the coal-mining industry for the inhabitants of miners’ towns (based on a range of research in Kuzbass and Vorkuta).

4. Lessons of the closure of Khlamer-Yu (Vorkuta), Dimitrova and Yuzhnaya (Kuzbass).

5. The Kuzbass coal industry as reflected in the local press (chronicle and commentary, also to be published in the ISITO quarterly bulletin).

6. The formation, activities and position of the Mezhdurechensk strike committee.

7. The problem of mine closure and redeployment of miners.

8. Monitoring of strikes in Yuzhnaya and Promyshlennaya mines, Vorkuta.

 

Practical Results

1. On the basis of the analytical account of the closure of Promyshlennaya mine prepared by the information-analytical centre for NPG and Rosugelprof, the two unions were able to persuade the Russian government to adopt their recommendations and adopt a Government Resolution concerning Promyshlennaya mine.

2. The leaders of both trade unions have used the reports presented to them as the basis of their arguments at regular meetings of the government’s ‘inter-departmental commission for social problems concerning the development of the coal regions’. The sharing of information has helped to overcome past misunderstandings and public disagreements.

3. The recommendations of ISITO were used in the speech of the leader of Rosugleprof, Vitalii Budko, at the XIth plenum of the trade union, and were adopted as a resolution of the plenum.

4. The president of NPG Kuzbass, Vyacheslav Sharipov, was able to use the results of the survey of political opinion in Kuzbass as the basis for his decision to associate himself for the election to the state duma with the Party of Popular Self-Management of Svyatoslav Fedorov. (This survey was funded by Rosulgeprof, but with the condition that its results be available to NPG as well).

5. ISITO participated, alongside representatives of the ICFTU, in a conference organised in Kemerovo in October 1995 within the framework of the EU’s TACIS programme, which included both traditional and alternative trade unions (including NPG and Rosugleprof).

6. ISITO reports and materials have been published in the newspapers Na-gora (the all-Russian newspaper of Rosugleprof) and Zapolyar’e (Vorkuta), and in the information bulletin `Profsoyuznoe obrazovanie’.

 

Influence of ISITO on political decision-making.

ISITO has already managed to have a significant impact on political decision-making by feeding accurate information and empirically grounded recommendatsion into the political process. The most dramatic impact has been in relation to the closure of Promyshlennaya mine in Vorkuta.

Vadim Borisov went to Vorkuta in September to investigate the situation on the ground, to develop contacts with the trade union leaders, and to establish a network of local contacts to report regularly to the information-analytical centre. In the event his visit proved to have rather more dramatic results.

On 19the September he met the presidents of NPG and Rosugleprof in Promyshlennaya mine. Arising out of this meeting it became clear that a major issue in the closure of mines was that of which body would take over the legal obligations of the mine, above all for its pensioners, a matter which was still unresolved as various governmental and industry bodies all tried to pass the buck.

Vadim Borisov raised the matter at a meeting with the president of NPG Vorkuta, Vitalii Semenov. The latter agreed that the deputy president of NPG Vorkuta, Nikolai Stroenko, who was flying to Novokuznetsk for the all-Russian meeting of NPG Representatives (the NPG governing body), would raise the matter at the meeting, recommending that the legal successor to closing mines should be the Federal government, which thereby would assume all their legal and contractual obligations.

The next day, 21st September, the meeting in Novokuznetsk adopted the ISITO recommendations as an official resolution of NPG.

On 25th September, the miners of Promyshlennaya mine went on strike. On the same day a press conference was called in the state duma in Moscow by the president of the Vorkuta City Workers’ Committee, Alik Khidirov, and the president of the Vorkuta Invalids Association, Vladimir Potishin. Their speeches were supported by the communist deputies, who were seeking to polarise the situation in order to use the workers’ disatisfaction for their own political aims.

On the morning of 27th September the analytical description of the closure of Promyshlennaya mine, prepared by ISITO, was completed and presented to the leaders of both trade unions. That same morning the report was appended to a letter sent by the deputy president of Rosugleprof, Mokhnachuk, to Deputy Prime Minister Chubais. At 15.00 that day Mokhnachuk met with the director of Rosugol’, Malyshev, to discuss the situation in Promyshlennaya mine, and at 18.00 Mochnachuk met with Chubais to discuss the social problems of the population of Vorkuta, including the strike at Promyshlennaya mine. Following this dicussion, that same evening Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets signed a Government Resolution on the closure of Promyshlennaya mine, putting into effect what were the key recommendations of ISITO’s report.


ISITO Moscow Information-Analytical Centre for the Coal-Mining Industry

Report to Westminster Foundation on work carried out, November 1995 to February 1996.

Background

The period under review was a very difficult one for the coal-mining trade unions, spanning the campaign for the duma election on December 17th, the resignation of Anatolii Chubais on January 15th, the picketing of the government buildings by the miners’ union from 24-26 January and the All-Russian miners’ strike of 1-3 February.

In this highly politicised atmosphere, both trade unions came under considerable pressure from above and from below. Within the coalfields, continued delays in wage payment led to a significant hardening of the attitudes of ordinary miners and many local trade union representatives. Following the intervention of LDPR leader Zhirinovskii in the strike in Anzhero-Sudzhensk (Kuzbass) at the end of 1993, and the subsequent intervention of Zyuganov, the Communist leader, in strikes in Kuzbass early in 1994, the rank-and-file miners moved sharply away from their earlier support for democratic forces. The adherence of the populist Kuzbass politician Aman Tuleev to the Communist Party meant that there was a very strong swing to the Communists in the region, the Communist Party polling over 50 per cent of the vote in Kuzbass in the duma election. Although the Communists polled well ahead of Zhirinovskii in the coal-mining regions, the latter also received a substantial vote from the miners. This was reflected in pressure from a number of mine and city trade union organisations for the union to support Communist candidates in the election.

The unions also came under pressure from above. The former state trade union, Rosugleprof, came under pressure from the ‘official’ trade union federation, FNPR, to join in the latter’s electoral block, which was strongly inclined to the Communist Party, but which eventually allied with Arcadii Volsky’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. It was equally under pressure from the government to support if not the official government party, Nash Dom Rossiya, at least one of the `loyal opposition’ parties. Meanwhile the regional and national leadership of the union, almost all of whom had emerged from the miners’ movement of 1989 and 1991, sought to retain the political independence of the union in the face of these pressures.

The Independent Miners’ Union (NPG) was even more severely squeezed between the `fascisation’ and `communisation’ of the rank-and-file, on the one hand, and the `democratic’ affiliations of the Moscow leadership, on the other. The latter was primarily expressed in the substantial financial and material support for the Moscow leadership received from the AFL-CIO and US AID, through the Russian-American Fund. This led to a growing rift between the NPG primary groups and territorial organisations, on the one hand, and the national and Kuzbass regional leaderships on the other. This fragmentation of the union and isolation of its leadership was expressed in the duma election, when the national NPG leader stood on the proto-Communist Agrarian Party list, while the Kuzbass leader stood on the list of one of the fringe parties, neither being successful. The coup de grace was struck to the NPG leadership when the Russian-American Fund was wound up, following the change in international policy of the AFL-CIO, depriving the national NPG leadership of its key support. Increasingly isolated from his own members, and faced with the need to secure funds, the NPG leader, Alexander Sergeev, became heavily involved in the struggle for control of the giant Norilsk metallurgical complex, whose independent trade union had affiliated to NPG some time before, allying himself with a Moscow bank against the incumbent management. Similarly in Kuzbass, the regional leader of NPG devoted most of his time to his own business activity.

Activity of the Information-Analytical Centre

The information-analytical centre was unable to take a neutral position in the face of the growing polarisation of the miners’ trade unions. We decided in November that the priority for the Centre was to continue to focus its support on tendencies towards the unification of the miners’ trade union organisations, on the one hand, and the process of democratisation, on the other.

In the pre-election period the Centre concentrated on providing briefings and policy advice for the movement `Miners of Russia’, which had been established in March 1995 during the pre-election campaign with the support of Rosugleprof. The main priority was to support the political independence of the trade union movement in the face of pressure from below to endorse the Communist Party. On the basis of electoral surveys and reports from both the coal-mining and non-mining regions the Centre recommended that Miners of Russia should not affiliate to any of the election blocks, on the grounds that the miners themselves were not politically united and that no one block could claim exclusively to represent the interests of the miners. Miners of Russia adopted the proposal of the Centre to issue a minimal election programme, and to endorse all candidates for election who indicated their adherence to this programme. Miners of Russia endorsed one candidate of its own, Vladimir Katalnikov, leader of Rosugleprof in the Rostov region, who was elected as an independent. The strategy proved strikingly successful, as one hundred and eighty nine of those elected to the Duma had signed the programme of Miners of Russia, of whom about fifty proved to be active supporters of the trade union movement in the first debates in the new duma.

The forced resignation of Chubais on January 15th, 1996 brought the issue of non-payment of wages (extending for up to five months) and subsidies for the coal-mining industry to a head, since all previous agreements had been signed on behalf of the government by Chubais. This coincided with the negotiations between the industry body, Rosugol’, the government and the trade unions over the budget subsidy for the industry for 1996. The campaign around the negotiations proved very divisive of the two trade unions at national level. Rosugleprof led a campaign involving a three day picket of the White House followed by an all-Russian strike from 1st February, supporting demands for the payment of unpaid subsidy for 1995 and an adequate subsidy to provide for the industry in 1996. The national and Kuzbass regional leaders of NPG refused to endorse or participate in these actions, although they did not dissociate themselves from the demands expressed. In this situation the Centre delivered reports from Kuzbass and Vorkuta to the leadership of Rosugleprof, indicating that in both coalfields local branches of NPG were in support of participating in the Rosugleprof actions and recommending that rather than dividing the movement by entering into a dispute with NPG, the Rosugleprof leadership should issue an appeal to all NPG primary groups and territorial organisations inviting them to participate in the actions. Rosugleprof implemented this recommendation, although it insisted that NPG groups should not be permitted to display their own banners and slogans, since their union was not officially involved in the action. The result was that in Vorkuta the picketing and strike was called and organised jointly by Rosugleprof and NPG, all NPG regional committees, apart from Kuzbass, endorsed the action and NPG members from all regions came to Moscow to participate in the picket.

The miners’ strike called for 1st February represented a dangerous development in a highly charged political situation. A rapid resolution of the strike was essential if there was not to be a sharp political polarisation which would play into the hands of the Communist Party. The Centre played a part in this process both through the provision of advice to the leadership of Rosugleprof, and through the circulation of its own information materials in the state duma, through Vladimir Katalnikov, in preparation for the duma hearing on the industry. The government and Rosugol’ responded to the strike with the selective distribution of money to coal mines and associations, so that the strike began to crumble after the first day. The government also conceded most of the miners’ demands, although with substantial qualifications in the small print. In this situation the presidium of Rosugleprof decided to suspend the strike, by a vote of seven to six, in the small hours of the morning of February 3rd. However, the strike was to resume on 1st March if the government’s promises were not fulfilled.

With the effective disintegration of NPG at national and at Kuzbass regional level, the Information-Analytical Centre has necessarily found itself working more closely with Rosugleprof, pressing the leadership to maintain an openness to dialogue with NPG primary and territorial groups with a view to unification of the two trade unions. The Centre has also sought to open channels of communication with Rosugol’, the public corporation responsible for the management of the industry. On 25 January 1996, Vadim Borisov and the leaders of the Kuzbass and Vorkuta groups, Petr Bizyukov and Vladimir Ilyin, met with the Deputy General Director of Rosugol, Valerii Zaidenvarg, to discuss the provision of briefing materials for Rosugol and participation in the development of a new programme for social aspects of coal industry restructuring. This is an important initiative since it provides the possibility of the long-term and more secure funding of the Information-Analytical Centre.

Reports from Vorkuta and Kuzbass were widely circulated in December and in February, to both trade unions, to Rosugol’ and, in the latter case, to deputies of the duma. In addition, agreement was reached with the Social-Labour Information Agency (ASTI) on joint publication of the established ASTI information bulletin, which will provide wider circulation of the ISITO reports. Two double joint issues (9/10 and 11/12, 1995) have already been published. Arrangements have been negotiated with various other newspapers and journals to publish other materials produced by ISITO and the Information-Analytical Centre.

Future Plans

The plans are to continue work in the directions laid down over the past three months. On the one hand, to support tendencies to the unification of the miners’ trade union movement. On the other hand, to support the continued political independence of the movement as non-partisan representative of the interests of the miners as a whole. In addition, it has become increasingly clear that the greatest political danger comes from the failure of the government to formulate and implement an effective programme for the stabilisation of the coal-mining industry, including to ameliorate the social impact of redundancy and mine closure. The Centre will seek to develop its participation in the preparation of such a programme on the basis of negotiation between government, industry and trade unions. The Centre will also seek to secure additional funding to finance such participation. A substantial part of the support provided by the Westminster Foundation now has to be spent on travel and publication costs, at the expense of salaries and fees. A return flight to Moscow now costs $500 from Kemerovo and $400 from Vorkuta, with the cheapest Moscow hotel costing $30 a night. The costs of printing and distributing information materials and of telephone and email communications has similarly increased astronomically.


 

Report on the activities of the Information-Analytical Centre for Social Questions of the Coal Industry of the Institute for Comparative Labour Relations Research (ISITO).

March to May 1996.

Research Activity

Vorkuta

Three projects were undertaken in Vorkuta over this period at the request of the trade unions.

1. Research was conducted on the impact of employment reduction in the mine Yun’-Yaga, one of the mines of the Vorkutaugol association scheduled for closure. The focus of this research was the prospects for re-employment of these workers in other enterprises in the city. The results of the research were reported to both trade unions in Vorkuta and in Moscow, and were published in Na gora!, the newspaper of Rosugleprof, and in the trade union information bulletin Profsoyuznoe obozrenie.

2. Research was begun on the role of the trade union and the problems of mutual relations between the trade union and administrative personnel in the largest and one of the most prosperous Vorkuta mines, Vorgashorskaya, which is not a member of the association Vorkutaugol. This mine has a long history of acute internal conflict, the politicisation of which has had national repercussions on more than one occasion, with three different trade unions seeking control over the mine. Stabilisation of the situation in this mine is of central importance to the stabilisation of industrial relations in Vorkuta as a whole.The results of this research will be published in July August 1996.

3. The local press was systematically monitored in order to produce the regular quarterly report for both trade unions on ‘Vorkuta: March to May 1996’, which was presented to the leaders of both mining trade unions.

Kuzbass

In Kuzbass a large-scale project of monitoring the social processes in the coal-mining industry was initiated. The study is focusing on four aspects of change:

1. Wages and delays in the payment of wages

2. The position of trade unions in the enterprise

3. Relations between management and employees

4. Assessment of the standing of regional political leaders

The first stage of this study, based on a series of expert interviews and monitoring of local and regional press, has been completed and the results incorporated into the quarterly report on the situation in Kuzbass. A second stage, involving a postal questionnaire, is now under way.

Dissemination and Informational activity

1. Representatives of the information-analytical centre were invited by the leaders of the Independent Miners’ Union (NPG) to attend their Fourth Congress, held in the town of Shakhti, Rostov oblast, from March 20-24 1996. In addition to publicising the results of the work of the information-analytical centre, a survey of the delegates to the congress was carried out.

The proceedings of the Congress did not satisfy the expectations of those hoping to build on the close collaboration of the two trade unions at local level to effect a reconciliation of the two at national level. In fact the Congress brought sharp divisions within NPG to the fore, connected with the close involvement of the national leadership with a Moscow bank involved in the struggle for control of the giant Norilsk metallurgical complex, which now provides the majority of NPG members. The leaders of Kuzbass and Chelyabinsk NPG, hitherto firm supporters of the national leadership, sought to replace the President of the union and reported that they had been victims of threats to themselves and their families. The President was narrowly re-elected, on the basis of the votes of the members from Norilsk and a new leadership in Vorkuta. The expectation now is that NPG at national level will disintegrate, but the collaborative efforts of the information-analytical centre will continue at regional and local level.

2. Representatives of the information-analytical centre were also invited as official guests to participate in the Second Congress of Rosugleprof in Moscow on April 24-26 1996. In addition to reporting to the congress on the activity and results of the information-analytical centre, a comparable survey to that conducted at NPG Congress was undertaken. The purpose of this survey was to discover the attitudes of the 305 delegates representing primary trade union organisations about the economic situation in their enterprises, the prospects of their mines and their trade-union organisations, and the political orientations of local trade-union leaders. The results of the survey were analysed and given to the leaders of the union. A comparative report on the results of the surveys among the delegates at the two miners’ congresses is in preparation. Preliminary results indicate that the sharp divisions between the national leaders of the two unions are not replicated at local level.

3. On April 16 1996. the director of the information-analytical centre, Vadim Borisov, was invited to participate in hearings of the State duma, discussing the socio economic problems of the Northern region, to which a number of coal mining regions belong.

4. As indicated above, quarterly information bulletins were issued in both Kuzbass and Vorkuta, covering the period from March to May 1996, and distributed through both trade unions.

5. ISITO reached agreement with the Social-Labour Information Agency, ASTI, to produce jointly the trade union information bulletin Profsoyuznoe obozrenie, which is circulated to members of the state duma, the central offices of all the national Russian trade unions, and to individual subscribers. The information-analytical centre has published reports on the coal-mining industry in three issues of the bulletin, with a fourth issue in preparation.

Evaluation and Future developments

This project has enabled us to establish the information-analytical centre on a secure foundation, to develop procedures for monitoring and reporting on key developments within the coal-mining regions and to create effective mechanisms and channels for the dissemination of information not only through the trade unions, as originally planned, but also to the state duma, regional authorities and management bodies of the coal-mining industry and, through various publications, to a wider audience. The provision of an independent channel of information on the situation in the industry has, we believe, contributed considerably to the improvement of communications within and between the various bodies involved with the industry and so contributed to a reduction of tension which has threatened at times to reach explosive proportions. The one disappointment is the failure to contribute to an improvement in relationships between the two trade unions at national level, due to circumstances far beyond our control, although at local and regional levels we believe that our approach has shown some success.

We intend to consolidate this work over the final three months of the Westminster Foundation project, and we are optimistic that, having established the usefulness of such a centre, that we will be able to secure a financial basis for its continued work. Negotiations have been in progress for several months to secure funding through the coal-mining industry, with the full support of Rosugleprof, whose Congress passed a resolution in support of the work of the information-analytical centre. In May 1996 a meeting took place with the deputy general director of the national management body for the coal-mining industry, Rosugol, A. Yanovskii. Rosugol invited representatives of the information-analytical centre to take an active part in the establishment of a Foundation for social research in the coal-mining industry, whose aim is to unite all the intellectual forces conducting scientific research in relation to the social problems of the coal-mining industry. It is hoped that this initiative will provide a sound financial basis for the continued work of the information-analytical centre.

 

Report on the activities of the Information-Analytical Centre for Social Questions of the Coal Industry of the Institute for Comparative Labour Relations Research (ISITO).

June to August 1996

Background

The Information-Analytical Centre has continued the programme of work developed over the course of the previous nine months, within the framework of its attempt to foster collaborative relations between the two trade unions and to encourage the continued political independence of the trade union movement in the face of continuing pressures to subordinate each trade union to extraneous political forces, in particular during the Presidential election campaign. The Information-Analytical Centre has also been increasingly active in providing information and advice to the World Bank and Know How Fund coal industry projects. An additional priority over the final three months of the project has been on-going negotiations with both trade unions and the industry to secure continued funding for the activity of the centre. This last has been complicated by the structural reorganisation of the industry, the growing problems faced by both trade unions and the confusion surrounding the implementation of the loan agreement with the World Bank.

The Independent Miners' Union (NPG) now appears to be in terminal decline. The NPG Congress was financed by Oneximbank, the Moscow bank which was seeking to take over the Norilsk Metallurgical Complex, in which NPG has recruited a claimed 35,000 members, more than its combined membership in the coal-mining industry. Severe criticisms were addressed to the Moscow leadership about its involvement in this activity, and more generally concerning the commercial involvement of NPG, and Sergeev's position as national President was challenged, amidst allegations of intimidation of opposition candidates. In the event Sergeev did not face an opponent in the election, and he was confirmed in his position in a close vote in which he owed his majority to the votes of Norilsk, with some support from Vorkuta. Following the election, and the successful acquisition of Norilsk by Oneximbank, Sergeev resigned his position in the union to take up a governmental appointment in the Federal Pension Fund. A new congress will be held shortly to elect a replacement, and Sharipov, the Kuzbass leader, is currently the favourite to replace Sergeev.

These diversions have reinforced the tendency to the decline of NPG which has been underpinned by the recentralisation of the management of the coal mining industry, leaving little space for local negotiation. In Kuzbass even NPG itself claims to have effective organisation in only five mines and does not even have enough money to pay local travel costs or its telephone bill. It now only has a significant presence in Vorkuta, where it has long worked in close association with Rosugleprof. At the same time this decline, and the departure of Sergeev, is likely to strengthen those forces within the union which have been pressing for a merger with the former official trade union, Rosugleprof.

Meanwhile, Rosugleprof has itself been facing growing difficulties. The collapse of the nation-wide strike in February has considerably weakened the trade union, disunity being apparent at the union's second congress in April with each coalfield and each mine pressing its own interests and with strong pressure for the trade union to align itself behind the Communist Presidential candidate Zyuganov. Rosugleprof itself did not take a position in the election, partly as a result of information and advice provided by the information analytical centre on the diversity of views within the union, but individual leaders endorsed particular candidates. Soon after the election the President of the Kuzbass regional organisation of Rosugleprof, Gennady Mikhailets, who had endorsed Zyuganov's candidacy, was arrested on charges of misappropriation of trade union funds, although no complaint had been made by the trade union bodies which have responsibility in such matters. A search of his apartment revealed the presence of unlicensed firearms, and Mikhailets has been in prison since August, with the regional union organisation in disarray.

The weakening of the trade union has been reflected in the declining authority of its regional and national governing bodies and in the steady reduction in the remission of union dues to the centre, which has been exacerbated by the growing problem of the non-payment of wages, and so of union dues, in the coal-mining industry. This is in turn a reflection of the accelerating pace of restructuring through the reduction of subsidies to the industry leading to the more rapid rundown of employment and mine closures.

Final agreement with the Russian government over the World Bank loan was reached over the summer, and the first tranche of $250 million, to cover the costs of social and employment adjustment, was transferred to the government. However, by the end of September none of this money had been transferred to the coal-mining regions although by then it should already have been fully disbursed. Meanwhile the process of `wild closure', with little or no provision for the social impact of closure and restructuring, proceeded at an accelerating rate with the labour force being intimidated by the rapidly growing non-payment of wages which was a rseult of the reduction of subsidy and the implementation of the terms of the loan agreement with the World Bank. The growing social tension in the coal-mining regions was expressed in an upsurge of spontaneous strikes, including hunger strikes, culminating in Kuzbass in the closure of one mine due to flooding in August and the public suicide of a miner in September.

Research and Informational Activity in the Coalfields

The monitoring of the local and regional press in Vorkuta and Kuzbass has continued, with the publication of quarterly monitoring reports which have been distributed to trade union, industry and governmental bodies in the regions and in Moscow. The weakening of the central bodies of both trade unions has made the existence of an independent source of information even more important than it was when the project began. For example, the national leadership of Rosugleprof only learned of the arrest of its Kuzbass leader, Mikhailets, through the information-analytical centre four days after the event.

Over the summer special studies were conducted of a number of topics in Vorkuta on the basis of extensive interviewing of workers, managers and trade union leaders in the coalfield. Detailed reports were prepared on the dramatic hunger strike of the NPG leaders and of a mine rescue detachment in Vorkuta, which brought these events more to the attention of the industry and union leaders in Moscow. A report was prepared on the role of the trade unions in the Presidential election campaign in Vorkuta, with information being regularly communicated to Moscow in the course of the campaign. Information was compiled concerning trade union and strike activity and particularly that related to delays in the payment of wages. A detailed study of the largest mine in Vorkuta, Vorgashor, was conducted and a report prepared. All of these materials were extensively circulated.

The main activity in Kuzbass was the continued monitoring of developments in the coalfield on the basis of the collation of local press reports and extensive interviewing of workers, managers, trade union leaders and specialists. The main foci of research activity over this period were the processes of negotiation around mine restructuring and closures, the relation between trade unions and politics, and the future role of the trade unions in the process of coal mine restructuring. The results of this activity were collated and published in a single booklet, `Monitoring of Socio-Economic Processes in Kuzbass'. A special intensive study was carried out in Volkov mine, where the trade union has been engaged in a long-drawn-out conflict with the mine director, and a report of this situation was published and circulated.

The Future Development of the Information-Analytical Centre

Agreement had been reached in the spring with the managing body of the industry, Rosugol', with the support of both trade unions, that Rosugol' would take over the financing of the information-analytical centre from the autumn. A clause to this effect was included in the annual tariff agreement and was formally supported by both unions. However, with the management reorganisation of the industry and various structural changes this agreement lapsed. Nevertheless, discussions with Rosugol' resumed about a more comprehensive programme of research and information on social aspects of coal restructuring continued. Two meetings were held with Yanovski, the first deputy director of Rosugol' with responsibility for these matters, to discuss the establishment of a fund for social studies in the coal-mining industry on the basis of the information-analytical centre, which would co-ordinate the activity of all those working on social aspects of restructuring and embrace all the coal-mining regions. This proposal was supported by Rosugol and both coal-mining trade unions.

This development was complicated by the negotiation of the World Bank loan, which also envisaged the establishment of a Coal Reform Fund which would embrace both economic and social aspects of restructuring. The Coal Reform Fund is a new independent organisation which should be established at the end of September 1996 to cover all social and technical programmes affecting the coal-mining industry. The designated General Director of the Coal Reform Fund, Kovalchuk, proposed that Vadim Borisov, as director of ISITO and the information-analytical centre, should be appointed Director of the Coal Reform Fund for Social Questions, so integrating the activity of the information -analytical centre into the Coal Reform Fund and setting it on a tripartite basis. Agreement in principle to this appointment was reached in September. At the same time Vadim Borisov, as director of ISITO, accepted appointment to the Working Group of the Expert Council for Social Problems of the Coal Industry under the Coal Reform Fund. However, the establishment of the Coal Reform Fund is still in some doubt as a result of the conflict and confusion surrounding the World Bank loan agreement, with the Ministry of Economics showing considerable reluctance to transfer its jurisdiction in this field to the Coal Reform Fund.

Meanwhile, beyond the work of the information-analytical centre, ISITO has been increasingly centrally involved in providing research and expert advice on the social impact of coal-mine restructuring to the World Bank and the Know How Fund, conducting a social impact assessment project for the World Bank in Vorkuta and Kuzbass, recently published by the Bank, and in September and October 1996 has conducted the research on the implementation of the loan agreement in Vorkuta and Kuzbass on behalf of the Bank. ISITO has also been invited to participate in the Know How Fund project to develop Business Advice Centres in Kuzbass and Rostov.

Evaluation of the Activity of the Information-Analytical Centre over 1995-6

As detailed in the quarterly progress reports, the information-analytical centre has had a significant impact on trade union, industry and government bodies by providing independent and well-founded information and research reports. It would be wrong to exaggerate the independent influence of the centre, but it has certainly had a significant impact in the following areas:

  1. Improving communication and contributing to co-operation between the two trade unions, particularly at coalfield level. Unfortunately the weakening of both unions and the virtual disintegration of NPG has inhibited tendencies to the unification of the two unions, although the issue remains on the agenda.
  2. Ensuring that social issues remain at the forefront of the agenda of the industry and trade unions in the restructuring of the coal-mining industry. In this respect the centre has collaborated with the World Bank and the Know How Fund and has reinforced their attempts to press the importance of social issues.
  3. Raised the awareness of the social and political dangers of `wild closures', with the centre's reports on spontaneous strike activity, including hunger strikes, helping to bridge the gap between trade union leaders and rank and file.
  4. Contributed to the resistance to pressures to politicise the mining trade unions which have been very strong in relation to both Duma and Presidential elections. The centre has achieved this through its research and information reports stressing the diversity of political views within the membership and through its contributions to the non-party political movement `Miners of Russia'.

The activity of the centre over the past year has established a clearer recognition within trade union, industry and government bodies of the importance of research-based information in relation to the social aspects of industrial restructuring and of the ability of the research network established through the information-analytical centre to provide such independent information and advice. ISITO and the information-analytical centre have established a reputation as the prime source of expertise on social impact and social development in coal-mining regions, as demonstrated by their advisory and research role for the World Bank, Know How Fund and the Coal Reform Fund. While the financial basis for the continued existence of the information-analytical centre is still not secure, we are confident that we will be able to obtain funding from Russian sources to continue the work.