Trade Unions in Russia and Ukraine, 1985-95

Trade Unions in Russia and Ukraine, 1985-95

Trade Unions in Russia and Ukraine, 1985-95

Trade Unions in Russia and Ukraine, 1985-95

Synopsis

As the Soviet Union collapsed, many scholars and policymakers predicted that the pillars of Communism would collapse along with the state. Yet, the official trade unions not only continued to exist yet gained power in the late Soviet and post-Soviet period. Sue Davis explains the reasons why the official trade unions survive and thrive and why new, independent unions remain weak despite massive Western assistance. She examines many factors ranging from state policy to labor power in the late Soviet period as well as the first five years of the post-Soviet era in Russia and Ukraine.

Excerpt

Imagine a job as a trade union leader, given to you by the Party. the parameters of your job are to ensure Plan fulfillment, to ensure maximum worker productivity, to distribute bonuses, to oversee distribution of social funds, and to be faithful to the Party. a new General Secretary is elected after you have been doing this job “successfully” for 15 years. Within three years, everything has changed rhetorically at the system level and within the trade union. By the fourth year, the changes become real. Job security wanes as work habits come under attack. Slowly, Plan fulfillment becomes less important, Party loyalty becomes less important and you begin to be judged on your ability to make a profit. the membership of the trade union becomes emboldened to make new demands as glasnost’ takes hold. They make further demands as perestroika yields changes in work rules, norms, and bonuses. the worker is being asked to work more and work harder without additional worthwhile compensation (money is not a worthwhile incentive as there is still nothing in the stores to buy). He becomes highly demanding of trade union leaders. He has seen television reports of how Western trade unions operate, courtesy of glasnost’, and has met Western union organizers who take advantage of eased travel restrictions to encourage “new” unions to form. By 1989, the coal miners explode into a nationwide strike which gets maximum publicity from the media because it occurs during the first meeting of the new legislature. the coal miners reject the union leadership and refuse even to take donations of food and drink during the strike from

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