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Stop the persecution of independent trade unions in Kazakhstan

13 Dec

Statement by the Central Council of the University Solidarity trade union

The Central Council protests against the attempt by the authorities in Kazakhstan to deprive the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (KNPRK) of its legal status, and voices its serious concern about the situation with regard to workers’ rights there. The attack on the KNPRK is part of a general offensive against labour and civil rights by the regime of N. Nazarbayev.

The Kazakhstan authorities bear responsibility for the shooting of striking workers in Zhanaozen in 2011. And now they are taking from working people the legal instruments to defend their rights, and are trying to destroy the free trade union movement. In 2014 Kazakhstan adopted a draconian law on trade unions, which made it more difficult to set up trade union organisations, subjected them to stifling bureaucratic control and imposed a whole array of restrictions on their activities. In 2015 participation in “unlawful strikes” was made a criminal offence. All these measures breached the international legal norms and International Labour Organisation conventions, and created conditions for arbitrary rule over employees by employers and the state.

We demand that the Kazakhstan authorities stop the persecution of trade unions and rigorously observe fundamental human rights – the freedom of assembly and of trade union activity.

We stand in solidarity with our comrades of the KNPRK and call on all trade union organisations, civil society groups and all concerned citizens to support the free trade unions of Kazakhstan in their just struggle. 

Adopted by the Central Council of University Solidarity, 10 December 2016.

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Declaration by the international commission of the central council of the University Solidarity trade union, on the repression of educational employees in Turkey

25 Jul

The international commission firmly condemns the campaign of repression, unleashed by the Turkish authorities after the unsuccessful attempt at a military coup on 15-16 July, and directed against workers in the education system, among others. Under the contrived pretext of dealing with accomplices of the coup, the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan began a large-scale “purge”, with the aim of crushing civil opposition to authoritarianism and the islamisation of Turkey. More than 15,000 employees of state educational institutions and more than 20,000 teachers in private schools have been dismissed, and 1577 university Deans removed. This amounts to a blow struck by the authorities against those social and professional groups who, in their majority, favour Turkey’s progress in a democratic and secular direction. We express our support for teachers and university lecturers in Turkey and demand from the Turkish authorities that they immediately end this repressive policy, and respect fully the labour and civil rights of employees in education and in other sectors. We call on international intergovernmental organisations, federations of trade unions and structures of global civil society to put the greatest possible pressure on the Erdogan regime, to defend our Turkish colleagues from this unjust persecution.

 22 July 2016.

 

Why “deep cleaning” at the Prosecutor’s Office? Moscow university professors and LGBT activists protest against dismissal at NArFU

15 Jul

A protest action called the “Deep Cleaning of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation” was held in Moscow on the 9th of July. It was organized by the Inter-Regional Trade Union of the Higher-Education Teaching Personnel «University Solidarity» and the Moscow branch of the «Rainbow Association» gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organization. There were approximately fifty trade union and LGBT activists at the Petrovsky Gates protesting against the persecution of the teachers at the Northern (Arctic) Federal University (NArFU, Arkhangelsk, Russia), conducted by the Prosecution Office and the Federal Security Service of Russia, for the teachers’ social activity and open support of LGBT people.
The organizers planned to hold the action in front of the building of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, but the authorities banned it. The picket was then organized further down the street.
The main demand of the protestors was that the Prosecution Office cease its illegal interference of the into the labor-management relations on the side of boss. The participants of the action held up placards that read: “The Prosecution Office must not provoke, but prevent delinquency”, “Say NO to the prosecutor’s persecution of the NArFU professors for outspoken support for the LGBT-community”, “Want to work – keep quiet”, “Reinstate Assistant Professor Oleg Klyuenkov!”, “End repressions against Senior Research Fellow Olga Pospelova,”, “Labor rights are for everyone” and so on.
During the picket passers-by were asked to take part in an activity called «Deep Cleaning of the Prosecutor General’s Office». The passerbys could help to scrub a three foot by three foot model of the cover page of the law “On the Prosecution Office” that had been smeared with grime. The protesters asserted that the first paragraph of the Federal Law has been infringed by the Arkhangelsk Local Prosecution Office, because of its actions in bringing disciplinary charges against the teachers of NArFU and the members of the «University Solidarity» Trade Union.
The protesters noted that, due to the Prosecutor’s recommendations, the assistant professor Oleg Klyuenkov was dismissed from his job and the senior research fellow Olga Pospelova got a severe reprimand. The protesters further asserted that the administration of NArFU doesn’t try to conceal that law enforcement agencies interfere with labor relations in order to monitor the activity of the LGBT organization “Racurs,” the most members of which are university professors. For example, the assistant professor Tatiana Vinnichenko was forced to abandon any kind of social activity in order to continue activity at the University. These employees of the University say they won’t give up and they have already appealed in court.
“We are sure that our action on the July 9 caused the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation to pay attention to the abusive actions of their colleagues in Arkhangelsk and the injustice done to the academic staff,” says Pavel Kudyukin, Co-Chairperson of the «University Solidarity» Trade Union. “These are the professors dismissed during the last 4 months because of their social activity: Mr. Zubov, a professor of the MGIMO-University; Miss Tchebakova, a assistant professor of the N. Pirogov’s Russian National Research Medical University; and Mr. Klyuenkov, a assistant professor of the Northern (Arctic) Federal University, and Mr. Yasaveev, a assistant professor of the Kazan University. Unfortunately, the list might be growing. We cannot ignore the repressions instigated by the Prosecutor’s Office in Arkhangelsk. Otherwise any teacher can become victim.”
The leaders of the LGBT community are of the same opinion. Dmitry Svetly, the coordinator of the «Rainbow Association», commented on the situation, “Labor discrimination because of sexual orientation, gender identity, and LGBT activism is a common thing, especially in the sphere of education. We can resist it only if we are ready to resist and support each other. That was the reason why we joined the campaign organized by the “University Solidarity” Trade Union. We are ready to act promptly if the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian fails to rein in its Arkhangelsk department.”
Last week approximately one hundred trade unions and social organizations sent letters of protest to the Rector of NArFU Elena Kudryashova. In these letters they underline their readiness to support actions against the persecution of the University professors. The Moscow picket on July 9 was the third in a row of similar actions. On the same day activists in Orel were protesting in support of the lecturer Klyuenkov. A few days’ earlier there was an action against the persecution of NArFU teachers in Murmansk.
For further information on the situation at NArFU and on other actions apply to:
+7 916 180 13 28 — Pavel Kudyukin (Co-Chairman of the «University Solidarity» Trade Union);
+7 967 137 02 18 — Dmitry Svetly (the Coordinator of the «Rainbow Association» Moscow LGBT organization).

NaRFU administration keeps persecuting lecturers for their social activities

16 Jun

In Arkhangelsk the persecution of NaRFU lecturers has been continuing for three months. The repression was caused by their social activities outside the university, including their outspoken support for the LGBT-community. However the situation at NaRFU is singled out from many other cases of discrimination on the part of employer by the fact that the pressure on the lecturers is initiated by the local prosecutor’s office and federal security service administration.
As far back as yesterday disciplinary penalties and dismissals at the request of the prosecutor’s office and federal security service seemed highly improbable, and today they are becoming a customary practice for the country’s universities.
Lately within the frame of inspection of non-profit organizations’ activities Arkhangelsk prosecutor’s office sent NaRFU administration another recommendation to bring disciplinary actions against the university’s lecturers. This time “workplace absence” is imputed to Olga Pospelova, Senior Research Fellow, and Oleg Klyuenkov, Associate Professors. For Klyuenkov it is the second notice of violation. According to the first one, NaRFU administration was to issue him with a reprimand which is being appealed to a court at the moment.
However there is more to the attempts to dismiss the undesirable lecturers than just issuance of the illegal orders. The lecturers are forced to leave NaRFU “voluntarily” by all means. Now and then it reaches absurd lengths. In this way, in the case of Tatiana Vinnichenko, Associate Professor, the academic administration declared expressly that she had to give up any public activity in order to continue her employment. Olga Pospelova was asked not to post materials of political nature to her social network pages.
Persecution at NaRFU has already attracted public attention, both in this country and abroad. The Inter-Regional Trade Union of the Higher-Education Teaching Personnel «University Solidarity» joined the struggle against persecution of the university’s employees who are the members of the trade union.
‘Lecturers are one of the most rightless and oppressed category of employees as they are. In the majority of the universities mass dismissals are carried out, teaching load of the academic staff is uncontrollably increasing. Anybody can be dismissed because of contract expiration. And now at NaRFU they use administrative pressure for civil activism,’ says Pavel Kudyukin, the co-chairman of the «University Solidarity» Trade Union. ‘Nowadays it is fundamental for our trade union to protect its members from discrimination based on any grounds, from ideology or public activity to sexual orientation or gender identity, which is an aspect of private life neither government nor employer have the right to interfere in.
What is more, the following situation is fraught with danger for the general public. Boris Kravchenko, the leader of Confederation of Labour of Russia and a member of President of Russia’s Council on Human Rights says: ‘In case of NaRFU competent authority’s interference in labor relations is not legal. We cannot allow the practice of illegal bringing to disciplinary responsibility to become a customary practice, and we will give all-round support to the members of the «University Solidarity» Trade Union who are fighting discrimination in the workplace.
More detailed information on situation at NaRFU can be received by phones:
+7 915 212 40 07 – Vladimir Komov, the secretary of the «University Solidarity» Trade Union

Sign the petition: “Save University Professors!”

15 Jun

950 faculty of the State University of Management (SUM) have received notice of the impending massive redundancy 30 June 2014. And those faculty whose labor contract is ending this year will be fired without any redundancy compensation.

At the peak of the mass protest against cuts and deteriorating working conditions, a organization of Inter-Regional Trade Union of the Higher-Education Teaching Personnel «University Solidarity» was established in the SUM. Its actions have caused a wide resonance and attracted media attention to the monstrous restructuring, which the SUM administration tried to hide.

Now the administration is made act in accordance with law, but in order to economize on professors, the SUM bosses transfer the faculty to part-time, hourly wage and civil (non-labor) contracts, increasing the work load significantly.

This will inevitably lead to a decrease in the quality of education!

The situation in the SUM is a shocking, but typical case of our common woes of high school. The Reform of universities is actually performed by dramatic redundancies and by excessive growth of work load. If this policy is not stopped, it may result in the collapse of education and science in Russia!

Today, in the SUM – tomorrow, in your school!

Sign the petition against the cuts in the SUM and submit it via the form below to the SUM Acting Rector Vladimir Godin, Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov and the mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin.

Research and teaching staff are advised to indicate your academic degree and title in the “organization” line.

You can get more information on the situation in the State University of Management at the website of the «University Solidarity» Trade Union.

Model letter: please cut and paste this text, or go to the Confederation of Labour of Russia site and fill out the on-line form.

To: Acting rector of the State University of Management
Vladimir Godin

To: Minister of Education and Science
Dmitry Livanov

To: Mayor of Moscow
Sergey Sobyanin

We, the people of various professions and of different political views, are united in our  opposition to the actions of the State University of Management administration, leading to a decrease in the quality of education.  This is  and more like a managerial attempt of layoff, rather than the proverbial "optimization". We express our solidarity with the professors  and lecturers of the university.

We require:
1. Stop unjustified redundancies in the State University of Management  and forcing the professors  into worse conditions of employment.

2. Conduct a comprehensive inspection of the SUM administration’s  actions for compliance with the laws of the Russian Federation.

3. Abandon disastrous "reforming" the higher education at the expense of the professors, by increasing their work load and by mass layoffs.

4. Start negotiations with the trade union organizations of the university, the Moscow authorities, the Ministry of Education, and the  SUM administration in order to find an alternative to the professors’ jobs cuts.

 

Inter-regional trade union of higher education employees “University Solidarity” holds conference in Moscow

15 May

Translation of a report published on 29 April by the activist web site ikd.ru.

On Saturday 27 April representatives of university teachers from 13 regions of Russia gathered in Moscow at the trade union-linked hotel Izmailovo. The purpose of the gathering was to set up an independent inter-regional trade union that would stand up for the interests of higher education employees in deeds, not words.

Judging by the speeches at the meeting and the talk in the corridors, the problems in higher education are intensifying sharply. A teacher from Ufa asked: “As a reader my [monthly] salary is 13,000 rubles [£270 or $415], while a cleaner at the supermarket across the road gets 15,000. What are we going to do?”

Actually it’s clear what to do: push for higher pay. The president and government talk about the fact that by 2018 university teachers’ pay will be 200% of the average in each region. That’s good, but no-one in government has explained to the long-suffering teachers how to live until then.

Moreover, the government’s “road map” for higher education envisages a substantial reduction in teacher numbers, as part of the cuts in the number of universities and the public sector workforce in general.

The historian Dr Konstantin Morozov, member of the organising committee and professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities explained how the work to form a new union was initiated and developed. Significantly, the idea at first had been to set up a university Teachers Association, but then a section of the activists involved had reached the conclusion that the organisational form that could most effective unite people to defend their rights was a trade union [which has a specific legal status].

For those at the conference, it was obvious that the traditional union of education and research workers, inherited from the USSR, could not do what had to be done. Taking advantage of the passivity of the majority of employees, this union has adopted a collaborationist position in respect of government policy and is an obstacle to any real struggle.

The situation with the traditional union, which is affiliated to the Federation of Independent Trades Unions of Russia, is unacceptable to the most honest and active people in its own ranks, including the leaders of several of its [workplace] committees who attended the “University Solidarity” conference as observers.

As for the aims of the new union, one of its joint presidents, Pavel Kudiukin, a reader at the Higher School of Economics and at one time deputy labour minister of the Russian Federation, pointed out that the government is going all-out to destroy any illusions in the university-based intelligentsia that it has any kind of special status. “University teachers are not only being proletarianised, they are being singled out for special punishment”, he told the conference.

It therefore makes sense for the new union to use the whole arsenal of weapons available to unions for defending employees’ rights, including strikes. This point was made to the delegates by Igor Kovalchuk, deputy president of the Russian seafarers’ union,  as he delivered a message of support from his organistaion.

Boris Kravchenko, president of the Russian Confederation of Labour, told the conference that public sector workers may well become the backbone of a general campaign to defend social rights from government attack. Education and health are, after all, the spheres in which workers’ interests coincide most directly with those of the whole of society.

And the first tangible expression of such solidarity came with the adoption of a resolution at the conference to support the protest campaign by doctors in Izhevsk [who have recently staged a widely publicised hunger strike against health cuts].

The new union also intends to work closely together with “Teacher”, a union that brings together, mostly, school teachers.

The Moscow conference agreed on a constitution, a declaration and the other documents needed to set up a trade union.

The leading organ is a central council, which will work together with the five joint presidents, who represent the Russian State University of the Humanities, Moscow State University, the Higher School of Economics and two regional centres, Kazan and Ekaterinburg.

It is expected that workplace organisations of “University Solidarity” will soon appear in many of Russia’s leading higher education institutions.

15 May, 2013