VI Research Conference “Social Labour Conflicts in Russia and Worldwide”

Post-pandemic realities of the world of work, digitization, rise of temporary and precarious employment, global transformation of industrial relations … These trends and mechanisms for settlement and prevention of social labour conflicts were discussed by researchers, statesmen and community leaders of Russia and other countries at the conference which took place on 1 October at the trade unions’ Saint-Petersburg University of the Humanities.

News | 01 October 2021
In his welcome address to the conference participants, the Russian President Vladimir Putin underlined that “…traditional meetings bringing together researchers, experts, trade union representatives, employers will inevitably excite public attention. Today you are about to discuss a wide range of issues, of which the most important are related to the improvement of labour law, strengthening of social partnership, protection of legitimate interests of people”.

In opening the plenary meeting, Evgeny Makarov, Chairman of the organizing committee, FNPR Deputy Chairman and Research Director at the SPbUHSS Center for Monitoring and Analysis of Social Labour Conflicts, said that the pandemic affected all aspects of life and pointed to the rise of self-employment in Russia. This issue has become a subject of ILO-commissioned research and extensive discussion at the conference. Mikhail Shmakov, FNPR Chairman, vividly described this phenomenon as “an archaic form of pre-industrial employment” pointing out to its negative implications both for the national economy and self-employed workers.

Olga Koulaeva, Director of the ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, also believes self-employment reflects, in particular, the level of national economic development: the higher per capita GDP, the lower is the incidence of self-employment.

Natalia Podshibiakina, GCTU Deputy General Secretary, said the deprival of the right to social protection and social guarantees (annual leave, pension security, sickness benefits) will result in higher social tension, lower disposable income and higher poverty ratio, only to increase the risk of conflicts.

In situations of conflict, legal practices offer various solutions, with the self-employed being recognized both as employees and as independent entrepreneurs. “The dispute between a self-employed worker and a platform company – is it a dialogue between social or business partners?” wondered Gocha Aleksandria, specialist on workers’ activities of the ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

At the conference panels, the issues of developing and improving the theory and research of social labour conflicts, their role and place in the context of transformation of industrial relations were reviewed; new mechanisms and opportunities for development of social partnership at the time of global digitization and a rise of platform employment discussed; effective tools for forecasting, settling and preventing social labour conflicts in the current epidemiological situation proposed for better protection of employees’ labour rights, and new initiatives for legal support of employee-employer relations discussed both in and outside the context of the national law, international conventions, declarations and recommendations.

The rise of precarious employment is a challenge not only to workers and trade unions as representatives of workers’ interests but also to all parties to the economic system. The conference participants believe that only joint efforts by social partners could forestall the negative implications of such changes.