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Norwegian-Russian Trade Union Co-operation Evaluated

Norwegian-Russian Trade Union Co-operation evaluated(22.09.2011) A recent evaluation of Norwegian-Russian trade union co-operation projects finds the co-operation to be close and based on a principle of equality. It has led to stronger cross-border links, especially between Finnmark and Murmansk. However, mechanisms to integrate lessons learned into regular work have been too weak.

The evaluation, which has been commissioned by The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), has been carried out by FNI Research Fellow Pål Wilter Skedsmo. It has focused on co-operation projects that LO and various trade unions organized under LO have conducted with trade unions of the Federation of Independent Russian Trade Unions (FNPR), especially in north-western Russia in the period 2001-2010. These are projects that have been supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1992.

> Download the evaluation report

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, workers' rights in Russia have been under pressure on a range of issues, from irregular payments to the right to strike. The trade unions have had to reposition themselves compared to Soviet times when they were closely linked to the Soviet power structure. Russians seem to have little trust in trade unions, but at the same time, workers are aware that they have few others to trust when their rights as workers are challenged. For this reason, trade union membership remains at a high level in companies with trade union branches.

Pål SkedsmoIn his evaluation report, Skedsmo finds that the co-operation between Norwegian and Russian trade unions is based on a principle of equality and a Norwegian wish to contribute to the readjustment among Russian trade unions navigating in a market economy. All in all this has led to approximately 200 different seminars and projects focusing on a broad range of issues, such as gender equality, social partnership and member recruitment, to name a few. Throughout the evaluation period, progress has been made in managing the projects on equal terms. It has further led to closer links and co-operation on a regular basis outside the projects, especially between the trade union movements in the regions of Finnmark and Murmansk.

However, the project partners should work further to make sure that lessons learned at the seminars are integrated into regular work. Norwegian and Russian perspectives on gender issues differs to such a degree that it has proven to be a challenging topic to work with, but still has some merits in addressing pressing issues. A range of projects have targeted youth, which is important for future ability to recruit new members. It is recommended that the co-operation maintains focus on the trade union movement in the Barents region; that projects are developed with long term goals in mind; and that lessons learned are integrated into regular work to a greater degree on the Russian side.

About FNPR

   Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Russia.
   Successor to the Russian branch of All-Union of Soviet Trade Unions.
   President: Mikhail Shmakov (1993-present).
   FNPR maintains close links with the United Russia party.
   49 member trade unions countrywide, with a total of 25 million workers (2011), down from 54 million (1990).
   Organises 95% of trade union workers in the Russian Federation.
   Arkhangelsk oblast: 19 member trade unions, organising 130,000 workers. Trade unions for teachers, workers in shipyards and public health workers count for more than 50%.
   Murmansk oblast: 15 member trade unions, organising 80,000 workers. Trade unions for teachers, public health workers and miners count for more than 50%.


Further information:
   Download the evaluation report
   Read related commentary article in Norwegian
   Read more about FNI's research on politics and cooperation in the High North.
   Contact person: Pål Wilter Skedsmo
 The Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) is an independent foundation engaged in research on international environmental, energy, and resource management politics.
The Institute maintains a multi-disciplinary approach, with main emphasis on political science, economics, and international law.

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