Prime Minister Vladimir Putin takes part in a meeting devoted to the 20th anniversary of the Russian Trilateral Commission on the Regulation of Social and Labour Relations
15 march 2012
Vladimir Putin's speech:
I'm pleased to congratulate all of you on the 20th anniversary of the Russian Trilateral Commission on the Regulation of Social and Labour Relations. I'd like to cordially thank all colleagues who have taken part in the commission's work over these years, thereby contributing to the resolution of vital issues of our society. We all know what these issues are. First and foremost, they concern the formation of the foundations of the civilised labour market in Russia, consolidation of the social and labour rights of our citizens and, eventually, improvement of the living standards of millions of our people.
We remember well the circumstances under which the trilateral commission was established 20 years ago. At that time we were witnessing a fundamental change of political system, economic model and the very mode of life of millions upon millions of our compatriots. The transitional period was very difficult for the entire country and for each person in particular. It was extremely difficult and painful primarily for ordinary people who had to face this new reality on their own. These realities came as a bolt from the blue, and people had no protection. Delays in the payment of wages lasting months, layoffs, business closings, and essentially the stagnation of whole industries acquired a long-term and, regrettably, chronic character – there seemed to be no light in the end of the tunnel. Social tensions were escalating and developing into strikes and acute conflicts. Extremely energetic, urgent measures had to be taken.
The government, the business community and the trade unions had to learn to listen to each other, come to terms and find a common language. The proposal of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions to establish a venue for dialogue was very topical. The experience of interaction and the ability to find reasonable compromise, resolve disputable issues at the negotiating table, uphold one's positions, consider the opinion of partners and pursue realistic opportunities was gradually being amassed in heated debates. In other words, we were polishing up the principles that underlie the entire system of social partnership in this country.
Today, the trilateral commission is the main venue for adopting balanced decisions on the most urgent and sensitive issues of social and labour relations. The government does not submit to parliament a single draft law on labour and employment without consulting the commission. Not a single one! Our common plans, assessments and priorities are being translated into general agreements that have been signed at the federal level since 1992.
Over the course of these 20 years, 11 agreements have been signed. The last two agreements – in 2008 and 2010 – were adopted without any discord. This does not mean at all that there were no differences during the drafting of these laws. Quite the contrary, the debates were heated and tough, but ultimately all sides agreed on what should be done in this highly sensitive sphere of labour and employment and how. We must preserve this constructive approach and employ it during preparations of a new general agreement for 2014-2016 that you will start elaborating next year. Again, we must create harmonious conditions for the development of our human resources as the main guarantee of national success and progress. And one more point – our economic and social policy should be fair and should be in line with advance the interests of our entire society.
We did not deviate from this position during the recent crisis. On the contrary, we put an emphasis on social support and development and tried to protect people from crisis aftershocks as much as we could. We promised to protect people and we did it. Of course, we did not make it through this period without losses. It was difficult for many people, but we averted these aftershocks. Your market monitoring allowed the government to assess the situation without bias and make the best managerial decisions.
The recommendations on the interaction of social partners during the crisis, prepared in 2009, were no less important. They provided tangible help to our enterprises by reducing tensions at work and ensuring the required employment.
Your support largely helped us not only to maintain basic social standards but also to seriously upgrade pension coverage, continue major projects in healthcare, education, demography and family support, and to improve labour legislation in light of the world's best practices. I'm primarily referring to the ratification of four conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
I'm convinced that the maximum focus on the social factor in anti-crisis measures helped Russia weather the crisis without serious upheavals like the ones that shook many of our neighbours – the so-called advanced economies. We have already matched 'major pre-crisis indicators of the labour market. Real, inflation-adjusted salaries are steadily growing – by 4.2% last year. At the same time, wage arrears are going down – now they amount to 1.8 billion roubles against 2.4 billion roubles in January 2011. The total number of jobless is also decreasing. At the peak of crisis more than seven million were out of work, whereas in the beginning of this year their number has been brought down to 4.9 million. This number is still large but smaller than even before the crisis.
As social partners, we must continue to pursue our common strategy to create a modern labour market, and achieve a new quality of employment and a fairer compensation system. We must create opportunities to allow people to make full use of their talents, knowledge and experience, earn decent wages and upgrade their skills.
I'm convinced that strong and authoritative trade unions are as important for Russia as the powerful associations of employers and professional organisations of employees. Both the trade unions and employers must act as natural allies in efforts to modernise the economy and create millions of attractive jobs. Modern jobs, fair salaries and decent labour mean a new quality of life and the well-being of Russian families and our global competitiveness.
Incidentally a high-level conference due to take place in Moscow next December will be devoted to the implementation of ILO's Decent Work Principle. I'm sure that our dialogue with colleagues from 183 countries will be interesting and useful. All socially oriented states are interested in the issues that this conference will discuss, such as higher employment, improved social protection, fair salaries and labour safety. I hope that RTC representatives will participate actively in this dialogue. We have some proposals for our colleagues; there are plenty of issues to discuss, and there are examples to follow. We must improve the culture of social partnership and look for ways to take full advantage of our opportunities.
During the recent election campaign, representatives of diverse political forces and public movements made many sensible and interesting proposals on labour and employment. I believe the commission should take a close look at them. For my part, I will do the same and I will encourage the government to follow suit.
In conclusion, I'd like to thank all representatives of the RTC for their productive work that our country and society need so much. I'd like to congratulate you again on this anniversary and to wish you all the best and every success. I'd also like to award certificates of appreciation to commission members on behalf of the government.
Thank you very much for your attention.
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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin awarded government certificates of appreciation to G. Grechkina, chief advisor of the Government Social Development Department; V. Zakharova, chief of the Department of Wages, Labour Protection and Social Partnership at the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development; B. Kravchenko, president of the Russian Confederation of Labour; M. Kuzmenko, chairperson of the Trade Union of Medical Workers; and N. Kuzmina, deputy chairperson of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions.
Awards were also conferred on O. Kulikov, general director of the All-Russian Association of Electric Energy Employers; S. Kurbatov, deputy director of the Department of Wages, Labour Protection and Social Partnership at the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development; A. Kurtin, first deputy chairperson of the board of the Pension Fund; A. Malov, president of the All-Russian Association of Road Construction Employers; M. Moskvina, head of the Department of Labour Relations of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs; I. Mokhnachuk, chairperson of the Russian Independent Coalminers Union; A. Okunkov, CEO of the Association of Russian Metals and Mining Industrialists; F. Prokopov, member of the board of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs; and G. Strela, advisor to the deputy chairperson of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions.
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Vladimir Putin: One of the award winners just put it very nicely – partnership spells success. It is difficult to disagree with this. Thank you very much for your work.