As part of a global ITUC campaign, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady has sent the following letter to the Russian Ambassador in London. The TUC is also supporting a LabourStart action aimed at Aeroflot executives.
His Excellency Mr Alexander V. Yakovenko
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Russian Federation
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens
London W8 4QP
Aeroflot pressures on Sheremetevo Trade Union of Airline Pilots (ShPLS)
On behalf of the TUC, the national trade union confederation in Great Britain with 6 million members organised in 53 national trade unions, and on behalf of our colleagues in the Russian trade union movement, I wish to convey my serious concerns regarding the arrest, detention and prosecution of several trade union leaders in Russia, members of the Sheremetevo Trade Union of Airline Pilots (ShPLS).
I have been informed by the Russian Confederation of Labor (KTR) – like the TUC, an affiliate of the International Trade Union Confederation - that on 18 and 20 October, Alexei Shliapnikov, Valery Pimoshenko, and Sergei Knyshov, leaders and activists of the ShPLS, were arrested by the police. I understand that they are currently under criminal investigation for an alleged attempt to extort a large sum of money from JSC Aeroflot. They face charges that carry prison terms of up to ten years.
According to KTR, those events seem to be part of an on-going Aeroflot campaign against the airline pilots’ union. There have been many cases of unionists being intimidated and discriminated against by Aeroflot management. And shortly before these events took place, the union won a major court victory against the Aeroflot Company. The court ruled that Aeroflot must pay its pilots over Rub 1 billion in unpaid wages for night work and hazardous work in 2011/2012.
For years, ShPLS has been fighting for the right to sign its own collective bargaining agreement with the employer to reflect unique aspects of airline pilots’ work – including work and rest schedule, leave, planning, insurance, and health check-ups. Aeroflot management refused to participate in any official negotiations with the ShPLS. It even launched a media campaign against the union main objective of which was to block collective bargaining negotiations as well as to avoid that the court ordered payments to pilots.
The TUC strongly denounces those anti-union practices and the Aeroflot’s refusal to bargain collectively.
The TUC urges you to convey to your President, as guarantor of the Russian Constitution, to push for a thorough investigation of the ShPLS case as well as a fair and impartial trial. And also to ensure that Aeroflot – a publicly owned company - stops attacking and defaming trade unions and engages in constructive and fair collective bargaining.
I look forward to your positive response on these urgent and important matters.