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Countryreport Russia

Russia Presentation at the Mine Workers Conference

First transparency

30% of the worldwide coal deposits are in Russia, as well as 20% of the known deposits. However 70% of these are brown coal/lignite for energy use.

The number of employees in the coal branch.

Annually, a maximum of 360 million tons of coal are produced in Russia. Russia is sixth in worldwide coal production after the leading countryies on the world market China, USA and India. In the middle of the sixties the USSR had been first worldwide in coal production, until the discovery of the crude oil and gas deposits in Western Siberia.

The mining mostly takes place as open cast mining, only 100 million tons annually are extracted underground. 228 coal extracting companies are working now in the territory of our country: 85 underground and 121 in opencast coal mining.

The main center of the coal industry is Siberia, where the biggest coal basin of the country, the Kusnezker coal basin (West Siberia) lies. Here 56% of Russia's entire coal are extracted. The extraction is done in opencast mining as well as in underground mining. Other big coal basins are in Kansk-Atschinsk (Eastern Siberia), the Petschora-coal basin (in the North of the European part of Russia), eastern Donbass (in the southwest of the European part of Russia). Even near Moscow there are smaller deposits. South of the capital, brown coal is extracted in the Moscow coal basin.

Around 153,000 people are employed in Russia's coal industry. The average wage in the branch is 40 700 rubles (580€ per month), this surpasses the average wage of the country by 24.8%. But at the same time, the wage of the workers in the coal industry is 26.8% lower than the wage in all companies which are engaged in the extraction of mineral deposits.

Transparency 3 – 4

The influence of the mine workers movement on the history of Russia in the last decades

Transparency 3 General Strike of the Mine Workers in the USSR in the year 1989

It began with the action of the Meschduretschensk-miners of Western Siberia (Kusbass). 300 mine workers refused to go underground and demanded higher wages for late- and night shifts, a common day free of work, full supply of the mines and the mine workers with soap and food during the working time underground.

After two days the strike already encompassed all mines of the area of Kemerowo. The strike of the Kusbass encompassed the Donbass, Karaganda, the Petschora-coal basin. Actually the whole industrial branch was hit by strikes. The Prime Minister of the government of the USSR came for negotiations with the coal miners. All their demands were fulfilled. Two union-mine-workers conventions took place after which the workers themselves started a project for a framework agreement on employment conditions for the first time for this branch and put forward the demand to introduce an hourly wage .

The strike committees formed a trade union, the Independent Mine Workers Union. But the elected people in the leadership of the union have shown to be corrupted. They made an agreement with the employers association in which they promised to support the demand for privatization of the industrial companies in return for financial support. The scandal around this agreement has undermined the reputation of this new trade union among the workers. And the disintegration of the USSR, the mass privatization of coal extracting companies and the shutdown of the unprofitable mines has eliminated all achievements of the last years of the existence of the Soviet Union.

Transparency 4 the Rail War 1998

In the middle of the 1990s the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development granted a loan for the reconstruction of the coal extraction in Russia. The reconstruction took for granted the closing of the mines, which were regarded by the experts as being unprofitable. To speed up this process, the authorities encouraged the company owners deliberately not to pay out wages. Because it was about companies which were to be shut down anyway, the workers took to drastic measures of direct impact to enforce their demands – they started blocking important railway lines and main thoroughfares. On 13th of May, the mine workers of the city of Inty blocked the main line Moscow – Workuta. Two days later, the colleagues blocked the Transsibirian thoroughfare. At the 22nd of May all big thoroughfares of the country had been blocked. The railway freight traffic of Russia was practically blocked. The eastern part of the country was cut off from the western part.
In June the tent camp in front of the house of government was established – the "White House" in Moscow. The payment of wages, ending of the mine closures and improvement of the working conditions was demanded, also the resignation of the neoliberal president of the country Boris Jelzin.
However already in August, the hard economic crisis thundered, and until October the protest actions had to be discontinued – the authorities didn't feel for mine workers. Nobody was able to grant their numerous social demands. And the government had to resign. Along the way the Marxist-Leninist organizations worked together closely with the mine workers taking part in the tent camp. Grigori Isajew was incorporated into the leadership of the protest camp. The representative of the urban strike committee from Samara, which was not associated with the mine workers, who was leader of a small Marxist-Leninist party in Russia, and was in jail for five years under Breschnew – due to criticism of the revisionism of the CPSU.

Transparency 5

The Trade Union Organization of the Mine Workers of Russia

"Rosugleprof" ("Russian Coal Trade Union")

This is the old trade union of the mine workers, which already existed in the Soviet Union. The leadership of this professional association explains that 140,000 members are organized in it, which means practically all employed of the branch. In the USSR, through the years of the rule of the revisionists, the trade unions weren't fighting organizations for the protection of the interests of the workers, but social organizations, which arranged material help and journeys to sanatoriums. You didn't join, but all workers of the branch were automatically registered. The trade union membership fees were automatically transferred .
After the disintegration of the USSR this practice was abolished, but "the old trade unions" kept all properties, as they owned prophylactic factory sanatoriums, guesthouses, hotels, sanatoriums in the Soviet time. They are professional associations, who are devoted to the authorities and do not quarrel with the employers. They are the ones who are signing three-page treaties in the name of the workers and wage agreements. Rosugleprof didn't organize a strike in the last 25 years, became no initiator of work conflicts.

The independent Trade Union of the Mine Workers of Russia

It is a trade union, which was born from the strike of the mine workers of the USSR in 1990. It is most influential in Western Siberia in Kusbass. It has 20,000 members. In the beginning nineties the leadership has been essentially compromised through their collaboration with the neoliberal authority of Boris Jelzin, which headed for the "restructuring of the branch" by closing many coal extracting companies. Nonetheless now they sometimes meddle into the working conflict on side of the workers. But seldom as initiator of such conflicts. It is in opposition to the regime of president Putin.

The vital role in today's working conflicts isn't played by the trade unions and their basic organizations, but by the strike committees emerging in the course of the conflict. Unfortunately they are short-lived structures, among which there is no coordination. As the main conflicts today are related to the backlog of wage payments by companies which were shut down or from companies in a complicated financial situation, the main instrument of protest and of action against the employesr and the authorities is not strike or the refusal to go underground, but the hunger strike.

Blockades of roads and railways, similar to the end of the nineties, are not allowed by the Russian authorities today. The regime in Russia is meanwhile harsher, more authoritarian and more repressive, which the events in the centers of coal extraction in eastern Russian Donbass in the city of Gukowo show.

Transparency 6

The conflict in Gukowo

The Donesk coal basin, of which the eastern part is on the territory of the Russian Federation in the area of Rostow, has supplies of 7.2 billion tons. It is anthracite of highest quality, which is however stored in great depth. Usually the depth of the Donbass mines surpasses 1 km. This increases the price of coal extraction in this region extraordinary. Until today the coal extraction only takes place underground. Nine mines are in operation, their output adds up to roughly 8 million tons of coal per year.

Since June 2015 one of the groups "KingCoal South" LLC, which owned four pits in the area of the city Gukowo - "Almasnaja", "Samtschalowskaja", "Rostowskaja" and "Gukowskaja" - went bankrupt, and a criminal process for fraudulent conversion of funds of this company was opened against the boss of this company. Thus two thousand employees of this company have not been getting their wages for one and a half years now. The arrears of wages surpassed 350 million rubles (5.5 million €). In addition, their coal allowance for heating in winter wasn't given out for three years. Gukowo is practically a mono city (city with only one structure-determining industrial branch) and there are no other jobs in this city. Since the beginning of the nineties people have been feeding themselves, only with what they grow on their farm property.

The non-payment of wages forced them to start a hunger strike on the 22nd of August 2016, which was suspended on the end of September. Then, on the 7th of October they gave an appeal to the president with the request to pay off the wage liabilities. But the situation didn't change. Small payments of (...) were only given in September, shortly before the presidential elections.

Because the situation didn't change, the strike leadership passed the resolution that 160 delegates of all mines of the former company should drive to Moscow with two buses. The meeting with the delegates of the communist party in Moscow was supposed to take place on the Gorbaty Most in front of the house of government, on the place, where the tent camp of the protest of the mine workers in the year 1998 stood. However on the 19th of December, when the mine workers were supposed to depart, the building of King Coal, where the mine workers were to gather for the drive, was blocked by the police and paramilitary Cossack units of the Cossacks. The bus station and the outward roads out of the city were also blocked for cars. The police also closed the bus stations in the neighboring cities Swerewo and Krasny Sulin and closed the ticket counter.

The special operation has gotten the name "Anaconda" by the police. The patrols of the police and cossacks went around the houses of the mine workers and "recommended" to them, not to drive to Moscow. In the end they didn't let the mine workers leave the city. Before New Year's Day authority representatives came to the protesting mine workers to Gukowo. These were representatives of the authorities, not the delegates of opposition of the federal parliament, but members of the regional government, who had promised to pay off the money in the following six months, after the property of the bankrupt company was sold in the course of the liquidation. However, during the crisis, the likeliness to find a buyer for these mines which are not bringing profits is low. But this is not reported to the mine workers, to – that's the assignment – crush there protest activity fully.

This outrageous example for the violation of most elementary human rights – the right of freedom of movement - gets even more ludicrous, after it became known that the urban authority of the city of Gukowo bought an official car of luxury class for the mayor for 2 million rubles.

The situation with outstanding wages in the area of Rostow exists not only in the companies of the group of King Coal Companies, but also with a number of other corporations of the branch. Among others, the workers of the "Bystryanksi mine construction – authority" in the county of Tazink didn't get wages.

Transparency 7

The Marxist-Leninist movement and the mine workers

The Marxist-Leninist platform is the initiative for building up the vanguard party of the working class. Since the end of the 90s, we support relations to the mine workers of the mine "Worgaschorskaya" in the north of Russia. But these comrades couldn't come to the conference, as even the trip to Moscow proved to be too expensive. In the beginning of the 2000s we supported the protest actions of the workers of the mine "Belkowskaya" in the area of Tula. But this mine is closed now, the coal extraction in all mines in the coal basin around Moscow is closed down. They are all flooded or polluted with toxic gas and the above-ground buildings have been plundered.

Becaue we as resolute Marxist-Leninists do not acknowledge the borders made by the bourgeois after the disintegration of the USSR, we also support relations to workers initiatives in other CIS-states. Not long ago we made contact with the mine workers of Donbass, which are represented here by our comrade from White Russia, and with the mine workers of Western Ukraine from Volynsk, who are part of the Ukrainian trade union "Sachist prazi".

In the picture of the transparency you see a protest action of Donesk coal miners in spring 2014, who are protesting beneath the banner of Mao Tsetung under the slogan "the fire to the staffs" against the power of the Ukrainian, Russian and local oligarchs. Unfortunately the military conflict, which was initiated by these capitalist oligarchs, severely weakened the protest potential of the local mine workers.