Several years ago, when we started to help migrants in the resolution of labour conflicts, it became clear that the rampant problem of non-payment of salaries will be solved only when migrants refuse to start work without signing a contract of labour. We therefore produced a leaflet with the title: “Don’t work without a contract!” Since then we are always conscious of the veracity of this.
In June a brigade of labour migrants from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan appealed to Civic Assistance Committee. They were employed by the company SK Invest Story working on the construction of the luxury residential complex “Garden Quarter” near Frunzenskaya metro.
All nine migrants were officially enrolled to work for SK Invest Story through a labour agreement. In October 2015 problems started with the payment of wages. First they weren’t fully paid and from January 2016 payment stopped completely.
The company’s management cited the lack of funding. However, the brigade got in contact with the general contractor for the project, the Austrian conglomerate Strabag, and ascertained that the found that the funds for SK Invest Stroy were transferred regularly.
When the migrants came to Civic Assistance Committee they didn’t even have the means to eat. The Committee provided them with financial help and got in contact with a lawyer from the group ‘Migration and Law Memorial’, Illarion Vasilev, for the protection of their rights in the labour dispute. The lawyer put together a case for them and represented them a session of the Simonovsky district court of Moscow which took place on 28 July 2016.
Judge P.V Vershinin fully satisfied the demands of the claimants and obliged the firm to pay the workers not only what they were owed for their labour but also to compensate for the morale harm. The total sum amounts to 1.24 million roubles.
At the trial the judge complained that there are too many of these cases, the representatives of the firm often don’t come and after it turns out that the firm has finished the work has been liquidated – no one can collect their debts. So now it is necessary to firmly enforce court decisions.
“Of course we have already had positive court decisions on the non-payment of wages, but to successfully sue for such a large sum rarely happens. This is a great success. Unfortunately, many migrants who turn to Civic Assistance Committee already have passed the deadline to appeal to the court and can no longer do so. But on the occasions when they consult us within the deadline, especially when the migrants have a signed work agreement we more often than not win – as happened this time” – explains Varvara Tretyak, project coordinator of assistance to migrant workers.
Unfortunately, the migrants themselves rarely refuse to work without a contract and fall into the plight, when proving the completion of labour on the basis of oral agreements is impossible.
By Elena Srapyan, Elena Burtina, Civic Assistance Committee