Dear Konstantin Olegovich,

The Media reported that on July 8, 2011 you met with the representatives of trade chains such as X5 Retail Group, Kopeika, Pyaterochka, Perekrestok, Diksi, etc., who use the labour of migrant workers. At the meeting, you stated: “We are not aimed at hurting you but calling upon you to adhere to the migration law. We perfectly understand that you need to work, but we are also responsible for the law.”

ADC Memorial greets the initiative of the Federal Migration Services on cooperating with the business structures, in order to create clear mechanisms of employment for migrants. However, we must admit the necessity in prosecuting some employers for using slave labour.

Our organisation protects the rights of foreigners in the Northwestern Federal District and monitors many cases when migrants’ rights are violated by these trade chains. The data from the human rights monitoring demonstrates that labour law is systematically violated by trade chains and mediator companies. Not signing work contracts with migrants, non-payment of wages, 12-hour workday, no holidays or social guarantees, holding workers’ passports or migration documents by managers and as a result, groundless firing of workers happens everywhere.

Our lawyers also faced obstacles while appealing to the law-enforcement agencies and courts. Last year, we filed a complaint from foreign citizens, the „Pyaterochka“ chain market workers who did not receive their wages for several months, to the Kuybyshevsky district court in St. Petersburg. Although the violations were obvious, the judge could not find for applicants due to the protocolary reasons. In similar cases, we came to the law-enforcement agencies, prosecutor’s office and State Labour Inspection many times, but the investigations were always limited to dry checks and reference to the lack of work contracts.

International agreements and Russian laws guarantee the protections of foreign citizens’ labour rights. The rules prescribing obligatory employment with a written work contract and а fixed monthly salary can be found in the Agreement of Cooperation within Work Migration, as well as in the bilateral agreements between Russia and the CIS members, such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. These agreements also guarantee medical help and social allowances by employer and oblige the Russian government to fight against the “illegal hiring of migrants by individuals and juridical persons.” Thus, the Federal Migration Service is responsible for dealing with cheating employers.

The lack of effort made by Russia in order to protect migrants’ rights is reflected in the recommendations of the 46th session of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, published on May 20, 2011. For example, the paragraphs c and d of article 17 recommend Russia “to maintain strict control over employers in order to provide respect, justice, equal social and labour conditions for migrant workers.”

Similar violations are widespread in other spheres where migrants usually work, such as communal services and building and construction work. As these spheres are very important, systematic violations of migrants’ rights require control by the state agencies. For example, city communal services hire migrants as street cleaners very often. We received many complaints from the migrant workers about the non-payment of wages or abusive practice of groundless fines, threats and poor socio-economic conditions of living. In fact, most of the street cleaners are hired by some “cleaning companies,” contract holders who are interested in using “cheap labour” to benefit from it, intentionally do not obtain any documents, and in cases when threatened to be brought to justice, they liquidate themselves. City communal services are exonerated from being responsible for the people, who are in fact cleaning their territories.

Most employers who have construction businesses also use the labour of foreign citizens but usually violate the Russian civil law based on the “oral agreements” with mediators and foremen. Building companies often pay less than the promised amount of money for months of hard work. The representatives of building companies intentionally do not sign any construction contracts, so they could have a possibility to decrease the payment for the work. In fact, we cannot effectively protect the migrants’ rights in the court because of the lack of contracts or other written proofs of the scope, time and wages for work.

In all these cases, we would like to underline that violations of the migration law and not obtaining the required documents are usually the guilt of the employers or mediators. The employers are interested in the rightless state of the workers, as it allows receiving bigger benefits from such “socially irresponsible” businesses. That is why we affirm that measures must be adopted in regard to employers, as well as the outsourcing companies and networks hiring foreign workers. Punishing the migrants will not solve the problem. In fact, it would only worsen the poor state of migrants and would give another means for employers to pressure the workers.

We hope that the situation concerning the legal vulnerability of migrants will improve in the near future and your attention will be focused on all the spheres, where foreign workers are discriminated.

Stephania Kulaeva

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