Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends the signing ceremony for the general agreement between the national associations of trade unions and employers and the Russian government for 2011-2013


“What we have shown is that Russia has a civilised and effective system for regulating labour relations. In this dialogue, there is no place for confrontation, populism or unrealistic promises. Rather, it is marked by a determination to resolve all problems by negotiation and to seek out mutually acceptable solutions.”

Vladimir Putin's speech at the signing ceremony:

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,

We are witnessing today an important event that will impact socioeconomic conditions in the entire country. Shortly before the New Year, the general agreement for 2011-2013 was signed by the national associations of trade unions and employers, and the government.

It took a lot of time and effort by all of the parties involved to draft this agreement. It was especially difficult to harmonise all the different policies and viewpoints. There were heated debates and even a few ultimatums, but we have reached a reasonable and positive outcome.

What this shows is that Russia has a civilised and effective system for regulating labour relations. In this dialogue, there is no place for confrontation, populism or unrealistic promises. Rather, it is marked by a determination to resolve all problems by negotiation and to seek out mutually acceptable solutions. It should be noted that this is the second general agreement in the history of the new Russia, signed without any controversy or disputes. You'll recall that in the previous agreements the parties usually failed to agree on the minimum wage. Trade unions and individual workers raised this issue repeatedly.

You know that the current minimum wage was set at 4,330 roubles per month two years ago, on January 1, 2009. This is a modest wage but every worker is guaranteed to receive it under current law. Two years ago, Russia was facing the repercussions of the global recession, and not only repercussions – the recession was deepening at an alarming pace at the time.

We all remember how much anxiety there was at the time because we could not predict how thing would turn out. Our main goal was to support employment and people with fixed incomes, primarily pensioners.

We have done all we could to achieve that goal. And, no matter how difficult it will be, I think now is the time to return to the minimum wage issue. I have discussed this on many occasions with Mr Shmakov (head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions), and we have agreed to raise the minimum wage by 6.5% on June 1, 2011. The increase will naturally boost incomes, not only in the public sector but across the economy. This will be especially important for people whose salaries are quite modest, to say the least.

I would like to add that the general agreement has formalised the intention of the parties to this social partnership to work together to improve the tax code, to make public sector institutions more efficient and to modernise private companies and make them more competitive. These efforts should help create a more comfortable business environment, spur economic development and infrastructure projects, and improve the quality of essential social services.

The parties agreed to continue developing state employment policies. Existing employment programmes have already helped over 1.8 million people. More than 170,000 have started their own businesses with their help.

Frankly speaking, I did not expect there to be that many. I know how difficult it is to start a business in Russia now. Anyone who tries to has to deal with a host of minor problems that hinder progress. But 170,000 people did just that, proving that we have taken the right decisions. By "we" I mean the government and trade unions, because we have thoroughly discussed all anti-crisis policies with the leadership of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions. We discussed every detail, especially with regard to employment.

As a result, about 1.2 million jobs were saved or created, which is a good result for any country during a recession. Let me repeat that: for any country! Many of the developed market economies, as some of our neighboring countries are described, have not managed to achieve such good results.

Next year, we will continue to be actively engaged in the labour market. The government has allocated nearly 28 billion roubles for employment programmes. We will also have to develop an effective policy regarding labour migration, and to boost the mobility of Russia's workforce.

Other planned policies are aimed at making our social security system financially sustainable. We will also build a new mandatory medical insurance system, which should cover all Russian regions within two years.

As you know, we have developed modernisation programmes jointly with regional governments, and passed decisions on regional funding for each of the programmes submitted. We have determined the size of government support for each regional programme.

We must also improve pension legislation, primarily to tie retirement benefits more closely to insurance premiums.

The new general agreement also focuses on workplace safety. To reduce injuries and occupational illnesses, we will launch a programme to improve working conditions and increase safety, and to make the regulatory acts in this sphere better suited to modern conditions.

This will require further improvements to the legal framework and consistent implementation of best international practices and standards – this latter requirement also requires that we ratify the key conventions of the International Labour Organisation.

I would like to underscore that each party to this general agreement made an equally valuable contribution to our successful work. I am confident that this productive cooperation will continue and grow in the future.

I would like to thank everyone involved in this difficult process for the result we have achieved. I wish you all a happy New Year. All the best. Thank you very much.

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