New NGO to Help Workers Get Paid
Published: April 24, 2013 (Issue # 1756)
A new non-governmental organization that is aimed at helping local residents receive their wages in full and on time was founded in St. Petersburg on April 12. Known as The Society for the Protection of Social and Labor Rights, the new NGO is part of the city’s human rights movement “For the Wages.”
According to the organization’s leader, Damir Khamzin, salary problems affect thousands of locals. “According to official statistics, Russia’s enterprises currently owe their employees more than 1.5 billion rubles ($47.3 million) in back wages,” he said.
The new NGO has a team of lawyers who will handle, free of charge, various salary-related issues, from the delay of payments to unfair salary reductions to firing without due compensation. The NGO will serve not only locals but also immigrants, who are often the most vulnerable group of the working population.
“We have set up a telephone hotline at +7 (901) 374 8797, where we will offer legal advice and then, depending on the caller’s needs, our lawyers will provide them with further help,” Khamzin said. “Our lawyers can help not only with preparing and filing a complaint with the prosecutor’s office but also with full legal representation throughout the process.”
It is an open secret that labor law is violated on a regular basis in Russia, and most violations of people’s rights deal with salary issues and the illegal termination of contracts. “Even Russian citizens, who know the language and have professional qualifications, often find themselves the victims of unfair treatment and get taken in by employers; it goes without saying that immigrants are some of the first to suffer,” Khamzin said.
“Very often, people simply do not know what to do when their bosses keep them waiting for their salaries for months on end and keep making promises,” he added. “They patiently wait, they borrow money from friends, and then the company closes down and the workers are left with nothing. Such scenarios are not unusual.”
Russia welcomes immigration, and local employers often abuse the rights of the immigrant workers who arrive from poverty-stricken regions and agree to work in the most humiliating, and often risky, conditions.
According to City Hall, the number of immigrant workers in St. Petersburg and the surrounding oblast has reached 1.5 million people, and looks set to increase. “Leaders of the foreign diasporas that we have spoken to, argue that the real number of immigrant workers is much higher because vast numbers of people work without a contract or registration,” Khamzin said.
While the NGO only began operations this month, its lawyers have already been able to help some local residents obtain their rightful salaries, including, for instance, a Ukrainian driver, an Uzbek street cleaner and a Russian sales assistant. The organization publishes short summaries of their success stories on its website at www.zazarplatu.org.