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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.

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Russian Trade Unions: Stuck in Soviet-Style Subordination? 319

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SARAH ASHWIN Russian Trade Unions: Stuck in Soviet-Style Subordination? 1. Introduction Since the collapse of the Soviet system, the evolution of the Russian trade union movement has confounded the early expectations of commentators. The strike waves of 1989 and 1991, which helped bring Boris Yeltsin to power, suggested that the independent workers’ movement might play a decisive role in shaping the course of reform. Meanwhile, given the ‘official’ trade unions’ history of subordination to the Communist Party, it seemed likely that they would collapse along with the system of which they were an integral part. Neither of these scenarios has been realised. The strike wave of 1991, which looked like a promising beginning, instead turned out to be the high point in the influence of the independent workers’ movement. Inde- pendent trade unions have not been able to expand beyond their small base in mining and transport, and now have little more than a token existence. By contrast, the supposedly sclerotic former official trade union national centre, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), managed to survive the storms of the Yeltsin era largely intact. As of January 2005 it had a density of 46 per cent, and had obtained international recognition as a bona fide trade union centre in the form of membership in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) to which it was admitted in 2000. This chapter focuses on the FNPR to which the overwhelming majority of unionised workers belong. The development of...

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