Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides that workers may form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, but it does not require employers to reinstate workers fired due to their union activity. The law prohibits reprisals against striking workers. Unions must register with the Federal Registration Service, often a cumbersome process that includes lengthy delays and convoluted bureaucracy. The grounds on which trade union registration may be denied are not defined and can be arbitrary or unjustified. Active-duty members of the military, civil servants, customs workers, judges, prosecutors, and persons working under civil contracts are excluded from the right to organize. The law requires labor unions to be independent of government bodies, employers, political parties, and NGOs.
The law places several restrictions on the right to bargain collectively. For example, only one collective bargaining agreement is permitted per enterprise, and only a union or group of unions representing at least one-half the workforce may bargain collectively. The law allows workers to elect representatives if there is no union. The law does not specify who has authority to bargain collectively when there is no trade union in an enterprise.
The law prohibits strikes in the military and emergency response services. It also prohibits strikes in essential public-service sectors, including utilities and transportation, and strikes that would threaten the country’s defense, safety, and the life and health of its workers. The law additionally prohibits some nonessential public servants from striking and imposes compulsory arbitration for railroad, postal, and municipal workers, as well as public servants in roles other than law enforcement.
Laws regulating workers’ strikes remained extremely restrictive, making it difficult to declare a strike but easy for authorities to rule a strike illegal and punish workers. It was also very difficult for those without a labor contract to go on a legal strike.
Union members must follow extensive legal requirements and engage in consultations with employers before acquiring the right to strike. Solidarity strikes and strikes on matters related to state policies are illegal, as are strikes that do not respect the onerous time limits, procedures, and requirements mandated by law. Employers may hire workers to replace strikers. Workers must give prior notice of the following aspects of a proposed strike: a list of the differences of opinion between employer and workers that triggered the strike; the date and time at which the strike is intended to start, its duration, and the number of anticipated participants; the name of the body that is leading the strike and the representatives authorized to participate in the conciliation procedures; and proposals for the minimum service to be provided during the strike. In the event a declared strike is ruled illegal and takes place, courts may confiscate union property to cover employers’ losses.
The Federal Labor and Employment Service (RosTrud) regulates employer compliance with labor law and is responsible for “controlling and supervising compliance with labor laws and other legal acts which deal with labor norms” by employers. Several state agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, Prosecutor’s Office, RosTrud, and Ministry of Internal Affairs, are responsible for enforcing the law. These agencies, however, frequently failed to enforce the law, and violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining provisions were common. Penalties for violations were not commensurate with those under other similar laws related to civil rights.
Employers frequently engaged in reprisals against workers for independent union activity, including threatening to assign them to night shifts, denying benefits, and blacklisting or firing them. Although unions were occasionally successful in court, in most cases managers who engaged in antiunion activities did not face penalties.
In March the medical professional trade union Alliance of Doctors was put on a “foreign agent” list. Anastasiya Vasilyeva, the head of the union, had previously treated Aleksey Navalny. Vasilyeva was detained again in January and again in September. In October, Vasilyeva was convicted of breaching COVID-19 safety protocols for joining protests demanding Navalny’s release, which resulted in one year of restrictions, including a curfew and travel limitations.
In April and May, an estimated 200 workers with the Moscow Metro subway system were fired for registering online to participate in a protest in support of Aleksey Navalny. As of August, 42 of the workers had sued the company and at least two of the workers had been reinstated.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits most forms of forced or compulsory labor but allows for it as a penal sentence, in some cases as prison labor contracted to private enterprises.
The government did not effectively enforce laws against forced labor, although prescribed penalties for violations were commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Compulsory prison labor occurred, which in some cases was used as punishment for expressing political or ideological views. Human rights groups expressed concern regarding the prison system being used in the construction sector in remote regions, due to insufficient numbers of Central Asian migrant workers. Instances of labor trafficking were reported in the construction, manufacturing, logging, textile, and maritime industries, as well as in sawmills, agriculture, sheep farms, grocery and retail stores, restaurants, waste sorting, street sweeping, domestic service, and forced begging (see section 7.c.). Serious problems remained in protecting migrant laborers, particularly from North Korea, who generally earned 40 percent less than the average salary. Migrant workers at times experienced exploitative labor conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of identity documents, nonpayment for services rendered, physical abuse, unsafe working conditions, and extremely poor living conditions.
Under a state-to-state agreement, North Korean citizens worked for many years in the country in a variety of sectors, including the logging and construction industries in the Far East. To comply with the 2017 UN Security Council resolution prohibiting the employment of North Koreans, Russia had largely eliminated from the workforce North Korean laborers working in the country legally and continued to affirm its commitment to do so. Many North Korean laborers, however, continued to enter the country via fraudulent channels to work informally, for example by obtaining tourist or student visas. Authorities failed to screen departing North Korean workers for human trafficking and indications of forced labor.
There were reports of forced labor in the production of bricks, raising livestock, and at sawmills, primarily in Dagestan. While both men and women were exploited for forced labor in these industries in the Northern Caucasus region, victims were primarily male job seekers recruited in Moscow.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits all worst forms of child labor, explicitly prohibiting work in unhealthy or dangerous conditions, underground work, or jobs that might endanger a child’s health and moral development. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 16 in most cases and regulates the working conditions of children younger than 18. The law permits children at age 14 to work under certain conditions and with the approval of a parent or guardian. Such work must not threaten the child’s health or welfare. RosTrud is responsible for inspecting enterprises and organizations to identify violations of labor and occupational health standards for minors. The government effectively enforced the law, although penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes.
There were no available nationally representative data on the prevalence of child labor in the country, although children reportedly worked in the informal and retail sectors. Some children, both Russian and foreign, were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, forced participation in the production of pornography, and forced begging (see section 6, Children).
See the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits discrimination in respect to employment and occupation based on race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, age, and refugee status, but does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, gender identity, or disability. Although the country placed a general ban on discrimination, the government did not effectively enforce the law, and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for other civil rights-related laws.
Discrimination based on gender in compensation, professional training, hiring, and dismissal was common, but very difficult to prove. Employers often preferred to hire men to save on maternity and child-care costs and to avoid the perceived unreliability associated with women with small children. The law prohibits employer discrimination in posting job vacancy information. It also prohibits employers from requesting workers with specific gender, race, nationality, address registration, age, and other factors unrelated to personal skills and competencies. Notwithstanding the law, vacancy announcements sometimes specified gender and age requirements or a desired physical appearance.
According to the Center for Social and Labor Rights, courts often ruled in favor of employees filing complaints, but the sums awarded were often seen as not worth the cost and time required to take legal action.
Women are restricted from employment in certain occupations in the chemical industry, metallurgy, oil production, coal mining, manufacturing of insulation, and some others owing to the harmful effects of certain compounds on women’s reproductive health. In January an amended law went into effect that reduced the number of labor categories prohibited to woman from 456 to 98. According to the Ministry of Labor, women on average earned 39 percent less than men in 2019. The legal age requirements for women and men to access either their full or partial pension benefits are not equal.
Sexual harassment in the workplace continued. The law does not prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, and there are no criminal or civil remedies for sexual harassment experienced in the workplace.
The law requires applicants to undergo a mandatory pre-employment health screening for some jobs listed in the labor code or when enrolling at educational institutions. The medical commission may restrict or prohibit access to jobs and secondary or higher education if it finds signs of physical or mental problems. The law prohibits discrimination of persons with disabilities, but they were often subjected to employment discrimination. Companies with 35 to 100 employees have an employment quota of 1 to 3 percent for persons with disabilities, while those with more than 100 employees have a 2 to 4 percent quota. An NGO noted that some companies kept persons with disabilities on the payroll to fulfill the quotas but did not actually provide employment for them. Inadequate workplace access for persons with disabilities also limited work opportunities.
Many migrants regularly faced discrimination and hazardous or exploitative working conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic more severely impacted migrant workers. Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was a problem, especially in the public sector and education. Employers fired LGBTQI+ persons for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or public activism in support of LGBTQI+ rights. Primary and secondary school teachers were often the targets of such pressure due to the law on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation” targeted at minors (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).
Persons with HIV or AIDS were prohibited from working in areas of medical research and medicine that dealt with bodily fluids, including surgery and blood drives. The Ministry of Internal Affairs does not hire persons with HIV or AIDS, although persons who contract HIV or AIDS while employed are protected from losing their job.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Wages and Hour Laws: The law provides for a minimum wage for all sectors, which was above the poverty income level. Some local governments had minimum wage rates higher than the national rate.
Nonpayment of wages is a criminal offense and is punishable by fines, compulsory labor, or imprisonment. Federal law provides for administrative fines of employers who fail to pay salaries and sets progressive compensation scales for workers affected by wage arrears. The government did not effectively enforce the law, and nonpayment or late payment of wages remained widespread. According to the Federal State Statistics Service, Rosstat, as of November 1, wage arrears amounted to approximately 1.34 billion rubles ($18.1 million).
The law provides for standard workhours, overtime, and annual leave. The standard workweek may not exceed 40 hours. Employers may not request overtime work from pregnant women, workers younger than 18, and other categories of employees specified by federal law. Standard annual paid leave is 28 calendar days. Employees who perform work involving harmful or dangerous labor conditions and employees in the Far North regions receive additional annual paid leave. Organizations have discretion to grant additional leave to employees.
The law stipulates that payment for overtime must be at least 150 percent for the first two hours and not less than 200 percent after that. At an employee’s request, overtime may be compensated by additional holiday leave. Overtime work may not exceed four hours in a two-day period or 120 hours in a year for each employee.
RosTrud is responsible for enforcing wage and hour laws and generally applied the law in the formal sector. The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law in all sectors. Inspectors have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions, although there were significant restrictions on inspectors’ authority to inspect workplaces. Experts generally pointed to prevention of these offenses, rather than adequacy of available punishment, as the main challenge to protection of worker rights. RosTrud noted state labor inspectors needed additional professional training and that the agency needed additional inspectors to enforce consistent compliance. Although the labor inspectorate frequently referred cases for potential criminal prosecution, few of these cases were instituted by the Prosecutor’s Office. In addition, courts routinely cancel decisions and penalties imposed by labor inspectors.
The government made efforts to effectively enforce minimum wage and hour laws, although resources and inspectors were limited. Penalties for violations were commensurate with those for similar crimes.
Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards were appropriate within the main industries. The law establishes minimum conditions for workplace safety and worker health, but it does not explicitly allow workers to remove themselves from hazardous workplaces without threat to their employment. The law entitles foreigners working in the country to the same rights and protections as citizens.
RosTrud is also responsible for enforcing occupational safety and health laws. The government made efforts to effectively enforce occupational safety and health laws, although resources and inspectors were limited. Serious breaches of occupational safety and health provisions are criminal offenses, and penalties for violations were commensurate with those of other similar crimes.
No national-level information was available on the number of workplace accidents or fatalities during the year. According to Rosstat, in 2019 approximately 23,300 workers were injured in industrial accidents, including 1,060 deaths.
Informal Sector: As of September an estimated 15 million persons were employed in the shadow economy, an 11.5 percent increase from the same period in 2020. Employment in the informal sector was concentrated in the southern regions. The largest share of laborers in the informal economy was concentrated in the trade, construction, and agricultural sectors, where workers were more vulnerable to exploitative working conditions. Labor migrants worked in low-skilled jobs in construction but also in housing, utilities, agriculture, and retail trade sectors, often informally. Labor law and protections apply to workers in the informal sector.