Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 122

Earlier this week, the Labor Ministry discussed two rival drafts for a new labor code. The more radical version was prepared by First Deputy Minister Mikhail Dmitriev, and a more traditional one by the head of the ministry’s law department, Sergei Panin. (Kommersant Daily, 25 June) Dmitriev’s proposes to dismantle the Soviet-era practices of the existing (amended) labor code, and introduce individual-based labor contracts. Panin’s preserves the old system of collective contracts negotiated by monopoly trade unions. It also maintains more formal protections for workers, especially in terms of stringent conditions before workers can be made redundant. Neither variant seems to have any new ideas to deal with what is arguably the most acute problem facing Russian workers–that of wage arrears. Minister Oksana Dmitrieva is thought to favor the traditional variant. She is also reported to be hostile to the reforms of the pension system (a shift to personalized pensions, in cuts in universal pension levels) being strongly advocated by the IMF. In any case, these new drafts of the labor code are all moot. When the State Duma discusses the draft new code in November, it is likely–given the current high level of labor unrest, with miners occupying the corridors of the State Duma–to reject whatever the government proposes, and instead merely make further marginal amendments to the existing code.