Russia’s Labor Code needs improving, not replacing

President Dmitry Medvedev rejected on Thursday union leaders’ calls for a major overhaul of Russia’s Labor Code, saying improvements are often made to the document.

“The Labor Code is not perfect, nevertheless, it is a living document that is amended frequently …We can not adopt a new Labor Code every year,” Medvedev said at a meeting with representatives of the country’s trade unions. Several of them said the current law excessively restricted the range of measures unions can use to defend the interests of workers.

The president pointed out that businesspeople also complain about the law, but for different reasons. The pro-business Right Cause political party leader and tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov frequently criticizes the Labor Code, Medvedev said. “Why? Because he believes that this document reflects only the interests of trade unions.”

“You would not agree with him, I guess,” the president added.

“We can’t find the perfect model – that’s a fact, but we should aspire to it. That’s why the Labor Code should be updated on a regular basis.”

Last year, Prokhorov proposed increasing the working week by 20 hours to 60 hours, an initiative which was sharply criticized. He later backtracked, saying he was misunderstood, but said that the country’s worsening demographic situation meant the labor market was becoming more favorable to employees.

Medvedev did say, however, that the rights of some workers were not properly protected by the law, singling out remotely working people such as designers, software specialists, and website administrators.

“We get such people more and more, and we need to pay attention to them. I mean those who have flexible work schedules, those who work in remote locations using computer technology,” Medvedev said.

“The current Labor Code does not provide any form of workflow in this sphere, and these citizens are not included in the system of social partnership at all, they are deprived of the guaranteed social protection. That is bad,” Medvedev said, adding that the unsecured future of these people was unacceptable both for them and for the government.

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