The Centre for Economic and Political Reforms (CEPR) is a human rights organization, which assists people whose rights have been violated, in particular, the employees have not been paid a salary. There are over 1000 such cases annually. It is a reason for many protests when people come to demonstrations and pickets.
One of the most resonant cases is a situation around Gukovo (Rostov region) where miners cannot receive salary payments in full for over 2 years. The King Coal Group owner – a huge Russian oligarch –put the enterprise close to financial ruin and funneled the money offshore. At the same time, the government did nothing and limited aspirations to interfere in the problem in the future. It left miners of the small city on the periphery of Russia without any assistance and any support. The coal enterprise owner, who had bankrupted the coalmines and hadn’t paid any salaries and any taxes, had no punishment. Many of miners have seen this as corruption.
It’s been over a year since King Coal Group employees have begun to fight actively for recovery of back salary payments. In December 2016 miners were to hold a picket in front of the headquarters of the Government of Russian Federation, but police officers, Cossacks and special forces didn’t get them out of Gukovo. The region was under the pressure: a strengthened search regime was imposed for passages out of this city; sale of tickets in Moscow was stopped for miners.
Amid public outcry, authorities have made concessions, having paid a part of salary payments from budgetary funds – that is from taxpayers money – at the same time still without having collected monetary compensations from the owner of the enterprise.
It was planned that all salary arrears should be paid off step-by-step (50 million per month) till July 1st 2017. However, promises haven’t been kept: in March 2017 miners declared variations in payments and failure of earlier declared terms and arrangements. On the contrary, the Rostov authorities disseminated information about «repayment of the main amount of salary arrears» to miners in media. According to the estimates of miners on July 1st 2017 salary arrears has amounted 125 million rubles. And on top of all, compensations and other payments, including debts on ration coal, has amounted about 250 million rubles. Total – 375 million rubles.
Since July 4th 2017 miners have gone on an open-ended hunger strike in order to settle the multimillion salary arrears expeditiously. Now more than 60 people participate in a hunger strike.
At the same time, they express any indignation that the Russian President and the Prime Minister whom they have repeatedly addressed don’t help them. They are disappointed with their inaction.
Recently leaders of initiative miners group are pursued on trumped-up cases. Summer 2016 the Prosecutor’s office of the Rostov region has demanded to put the chief leader of miners Valery Dyakonov under house arrest. Dyakonov had already been on trial on a trumped-up case.
Summer 2017 Tatyana Avacheva, other leader of protesting miners, was also warned by the police about a fast initiation of criminal proceedings against her in connection with alleged theft of a number of low-value items that actually had been at her custody and had handed over to an insolvency representative under the act. According to the police, «case is under control in high places» (that is the regional government). It allows to draw a conclusion that it is the political order.
At the same time, law enforcement officials haven’t taken under «special control» and haven’t brought any charges against the coal enterprise owner, who is responsible for multimillion debts and funneling money abroad. He continues his activities. Miners believe that the main reason is corruption at regional and federal levels.
CEPR has supported the miners for the very beginning. We will continue to support them.