In particular, the discussion focused on the development of the national political system and the forthcoming State Duma elections, legislative measures to fight corruption, ways to improve working conditions and reduce occupational injuries.
Speaking of additional anti-corruption measures, the President announced that he had submitted to the Duma a draft law that requires banks and registration agencies to disclose information on the property of persons applying for public office, as well as their families.
In addition, Dmitry Medvedev noted that he would continue to address the social problems of workers, increasing the prestige of working trades and improving labour legislation.
The meeting also heard a report by Chairman of the United Russia Supreme Council Boris Gryzlov.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: First of all I would like to welcome and congratulate all of you on the upcoming May Day. This holiday has origins that go far back in time. Perhaps no other country celebrates it with such enthusiasm as Russia. It is connected with history, because we always celebrated May Day as the International Workers' Day. Later the holiday was renamed the Spring and Labour Day.
In fact, its essence has not changed: it is a holiday celebrated by all working people. As tradition has it, most Russians spend the May holiday season, which stretches from May 1 to May 9, in their gardens, working on the soil, which is a uniquely Russian tradition. You will tell me later about your plans for the holiday, so let me welcome you once again and congratulate you on the upcoming holiday.
Let me just say a few words about the subject we have gathered to discuss today. Naturally, I will not limit our conversation to this theme, but above all I would like to exchange opinions with you regarding the social problems of our working class, or the social status of workers in our country. This topic is not unexpected, and it is not timed especially to May Day.
Over the past month I have held a series of meetings at enterprises and with the Government. We talked about the problems of the working people, including the low rate of pay and inadequate social guarantees. We also spoke about the continuity of generations, when highly skilled workers in certain professions are unable to pass on their experience to young people.
In the 1990s we saw a major gap appearing in some professions: there are either very mature workers or very young ones, and the intermittent generation simply faded away. There is also the problem of infrastructure, such as housing and kindergartens, and this concerns everyone, not only workers, though it is perhaps most acute for workers because career growth can be quite difficult in these professions, and it is not always achievable to get promoted to a better-paid job that requires additional qualifications. That makes resolving the housing issue particularly problematic.
Incidentally, yesterday I discussed this and another issue that I believe to be very important for the working class and for the future of our country: education. In the Soviet period a system of basic and intermediate vocational education was established in our country. On the whole, the system is not bad, although some ridiculed at it and reproached it for not always preparing good professionals, but it worked. The young people who went through this system of basic and intermediate vocational education were able to embark on their working lives.
Unfortunately, in the 1990s and in the past decade, this system was largely either destroyed or devalued. Now as a result employers are facing the fact that it has become extremely difficult to find trained specialists in certain professions. They cannot find the workers they need and are forced to invest in the development of those same vocational schools and colleges. Here, too, we must think about how to proceed in the future.
Yesterday I held a meeting with members of the Government, a final meeting on this subject in fact, and issued instructions to draft proposals, first, on social problems experienced by working professions, and secondly, on employers’ liability, including for compliance with work and safety regulations.
When I started addressing these issues about a month ago, I realised that we have huge, simply monstrous numbers of work-related injuries. This is caused by working conditions, as well as the well-known lack of discipline and the reluctance of some employers to invest in health and safety. There is a great deal to discuss in terms of relevant legislation and even international conventions.
Those were the instructions I issued yesterday to the Government and, accordingly, to employers' associations, to give them something to think about. If you have any suitable proposals on this subject, they can be formalised and submitted as well.
This is our main subject today, especially in anticipation of the Spring and Labour Day, but I would also like to discuss other subjects with colleagues from the United Russia party. These meeting have become a tradition. I won’t restrict our conversation to a certain agenda because this discussion has major importance: United Russia is the largest political party in the country, it is, as they say, the ruling party, and a great deal depends on its decisions.
I would like to use this occasion to thank United Russia once again for its support on a number of my initiatives, both economic and political. In recent years we have together greatly improved our political institutions – I won’t say we have made any radical changes because there was no need for them – we have made them more workable, and your support for my initiatives helped us to find the best solutions. 2011 is an election year, the year of local and State Duma elections. These elections will see at least partial modernisation of our electoral system and political system as a whole.
There are a number of other subjects that are relevant for the party, other political bodies and the public. One of them is a formidable and long-standing problem of corruption. I suggest we also discuss it today with a view to improving legislative regulation.
In this regard, I would like to inform you that today I will submit a draft law on the responsibility of officials to declare their incomes. The bill also stipulates that banks are obliged to disclose explicit information relating to persons who apply for public office and who will work in an official capacity. This will no longer be a matter of their good will; they will not be able to choose whether to provide the information or not.
Banks are already required to satisfy requests for information from certain agencies when government posts are filled. The same applies to registration agencies that keep real estate records. Moreover, this applies not only to government employees, but also to members of their families. The draft law also addresses the liability of civil servants who do not declare their business activities and certain other matters.
If the topic interests you, and I think it, unfortunately, interests everyone in our country, then let's talk about that too. Of course I'm open to discussing any pressing issues. We have enough such problems, and today's meeting is an opportunity for us to approach them with absolute openness. You can ask any questions that you deem necessary.
I know there are a number of our colleagues present who wish to say a few words on behalf of workers and talk about their problems, and, naturally, on party business, too, and on major national development issues.