Chairman of the Independent Federation of Trade Unions of Russia Mikhail Shmakov: Mr President, good afternoon. There are a number of issues to discuss, including international issues related to the BRICS group.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Go ahead.
Mikhail Shmakov: Let me begin with what is both a good and amazing piece of news, for us at least, and perhaps for you too: the trade unions organised a road rally from Moscow to Magadan.
I can tell you that the Chita-Khabarovsk road, which you have travelled yourself, is looking fine. This road (indicating the map) is under construction – the road linking Skovorodino to Magadan. They have already done a tremendous amount of work and have already laid the gravel, but they still need to asphalt the surface and build a couple of bridges. The road is open at the moment in a test stage, you could say.
Vladimir Putin: They have difficult conditions out there, but they will get everything finished, this road too.
Mikhail Shmakov: Yes, they will get it finished.
Vladimir Putin: So you liked the Chita-Khabarovsk road?
Mikhail Shmakov: It’s a decent road, a good road. We travelled it 10 years ago, before you did, and back then it was in a similar state to the Kolyma road now, but you were able to see for yourself how much work they did on it since then.
Vladimir Putin: Did you drive a Pobeda [Victory] car?
Mikhail Shmakov: Yes, the Pobeda visited each town but did not travel the whole road. We took the Pobeda by trailer, but drove it into each town, since we held the rally to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory [in the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War].
Vladimir Putin: So you had UAZ vehicles?
Mikhail Shmakov: Yes, we did.
Vladimir Putin: And you drove too?
Mikhail Shmakov: I spent the last two weeks on the road myself.
Vladimir Putin: Congratulations. That was a long trip, and not an easy road. It took two weeks?
Mikhail Shmakov: No, they all took a month. I was with them for two weeks, from Irkutsk to Magadan.
Vladimir Putin: Great, thank you very much.
Mikhail Shmakov: Mr President, there are also a couple of matters related first of all to continuing reforms that are transferring administrative powers to the regions. We discussed the matter six months ago. You gave an instruction approving an experiment with the transfer of the Federal Labour and Employment Service’s [Rostrud] powers to the regional level in the Crimea Federal District.
This experiment with the transfer of Rostrud’s powers in the Crimea Federal District is underway. The experiment will end at the end of this year, but the decision was taken to launch a more ambitious project to transfer these powers in another ten regions without first waiting to see what results are achieved in Crimea.
Clearly, some of the federal executive bodies support this idea, but we nonetheless ask for you not to push ahead too fast with the transfer of Rostrud’s powers and wait and see first what conclusions the experiment in Crimea brings. We fear that the transfer of powers to the regions will lead to a substantial decrease in oversight of compliance with labour laws and workplace conditions.
We are constantly encountering cases of accidents being concealed, being reclassified from workplace accidents to personal accidents and so forth.
This is obviously more convenient from a business point of view, but not from the point of view of a person’s health… Business is essentially about making a profit, but people should not die or be injured in the workplace on the way.
Vladimir Putin: It’s important too what kind of compensation people receive. An accident that occurs in the course of everyday activities is one thing, but an accident in the workplace is quite another.
Mikhail Shmakov: Aside from everything else, there are International Labour Organisation rules and the ILO convention that make it clear that a federal executive body should be responsible for overseeing these matters. We need to settle this situation, and so I ask for an adjustment to be made to the deadlines that [Federal Government Minister] Mikhail Abyzov has set today on the basis of the Government expert council’s proposals. The thing is, the expert council’s proposals overrule the existing agreements.
Vladimir Putin: I will talk with the Government and we will make the necessary adjustments.
Mikhail Shmakov: Thank you. I will draft the relevant documents.
Vladimir Putin: What was the issue you wanted to raise regarding the BRICS group?
Mikhail Shmakov: There are no big problems with the BRICS group. We are preparing for the BRICS Trade Union Forum and are taking part in all events.
Vladimir Putin: Through the work going on within Russia’s Presidency in the group?
Mikhail Shmakov: Yes, that’s right. We are chairing the trade unions part of the BRICS Trade Union Forum this year.
I would just like to clarify a few details and ask you to agree to meet with a group of trade union leaders from the BRICS countries, five to seven people, during the summit. As we did at the last summit in Fortaleza, we would like to present a declaration on the summit’s theme, drafted by the trade unions, and would like you to have a brief meeting with us and answer our questions.
Vladimir Putin: All right.