President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Shmakov, colleagues, friends, good evening.
It is a pleasure to see you again. We do not meet as often as we would like, but rather regularly, and today’s meeting is taking place on the eve of two good dates: the 110th anniversary of Russia’s trade union movement and the 25th anniversary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia.
Chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions Mikhail Shmakov: Mr President, we have sent you an invitation, but as I found out, it did not reach you, so I would like to give it to you now (hands over the invitation) so you see that we have managed to learn to be creative in the past 25 years.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to say that you have not only learned to be creative, but also to be efficient in protecting the interests of the working people – something I have to single out. I know this not from hearsay and not only as the current head of state, but as former Prime Minister as well. We worked together with many of those present, with Mr Shmakov in particular, within the trilateral commission, which is a key instrument for resolving social matters and defending the rights of the working people, as I said.
At the same time, I would like to note, and thank you for it, that the trade unions, given their overwhelming and appropriate focus on action in the interests of the working people in a broad sense of the word, are nevertheless not guided by populist ideas but see the targets for developing the country and its economy.
I would like to remind you that the target is to ensure that the material wellbeing of our citizens, of Russia’s working people is directly linked to the economy’s development level, to its diversification, workers’ higher qualifications, the introduction of new technologies, greater mobility of labour resources and their use in the most important areas for the state, the country and the economy.
Naturally, we always have extensive discussions on social matters. I believe you will agree, as we said on numerous occasions, that social support on the part of the state should be constantly updated and it should be targeted. Unfortunately, a large part of the allocations for these purposes get spread too thinly, and often the recipients do not really feel the support. Besides, sometimes the support goes to those who do not really need it.
Here, however, it is very important to be careful and while introducing any innovation we need to make sure we do not toss the baby out with the bath water, as the saying goes. In conditions when the economy is going through difficult times, we need to be very careful in the social sphere and carefully watch over our common goal: this has to do with support of employment, the creation of new jobs on the basis of modern qualifications and retraining.
I have actually just covered the entire range of complicated issues that we have to work on almost constantly.
Nevertheless, on the eve of these great events I would like to congratulate you and all of Russia’s trade union members on these dates.