Hunger Strike, Strike, Pressure on Workers: Protest by Workers at Moscow Restaurant Chain Grows Novoprof
February 3, 2017
Workers at the fastfood chain Pizzeria (formerly known as Sbarro) who have not been paid continued their hunger strike for the third day in a restaurant on Krasnoprudnaya Street in Moscow. All the tricks played by the “strange” management to make the workers flinch and stop their protest have failed.
Other restaurants in the chain have joined the protest of their comrades on Krasnoprudnaya. Workers at Pizzeria in the Vegas Shopping Center on Kashirka have not worked for three days since joining the trade union. Novoprof has taken calls from a number of other restaurants in the chain, as well as from restaurants in the Yolki-Palki chain.
The workers are desperate because they do not know how to get their hard-earned money. They have been kicked out of rented flats and have no way to pay back their debts, and there is no one and nowhere they can borrow any more money.
Instead of doing everything they can to pay the money they owe their workers, the real employers have been hiding behind “strange” managers. Practically speaking, there is no one with whom workers can negotiate. Trade union members suspect the Yelashvili brothers (Murab and Georgy) are still the actual proprietors of the chains. Instead of solving the problems that have arisen at the restaurants, management has attempted to divide workers by paying out tiny sums on their bankcards, but not everyone’s. They have been trying to throw them a bone, as it were, thus making the workers shut up and return to work. There have also been attempts to mentally coerce the workers who are on hunger strike.
We have found out that the former Sbarro, Yolki-Palki, YamKee, and other chains have been re-registered as new legal entities with names like Italian Eatery, Ltd., One-Stop Service, Ltd., and so on. These legal entities have different executive directors, but surprisingly they have the same official address. They do not have their own websites. Similarly, we have been unable to find a website for Rus RST Holding Company, which, allegedly, had taken over management of the restaurants from the Yelashvili-owned G.M.R. Planet of Hospitality.*
Novoprof will continue to support the protesting workers with all their their might, uniting them in the fight for their hard-earned money.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks again toComradeIvan Ovsyannikov for the heads-up. Novoprof is short for the New Trade Unions Interregional Trade Union. It was founded in 2011 by brewers from the Baltica plant in Rostov-on-Don, and printers and heating plant workers in Petersburg. Photos courtesy of Ivan Ovsyannikov and Novoprof
* Merab Yelashvili
Born in the Georgian village of Kulashi in 1974 to the family of a Georgian Jewish community leader. At the age of 19, he came to conquer Moscow, where, with his brother Georgy Yelashvili and brother-in-law Roman Shamilashvili, he founded GMR, which distributes products by leading European producers, in particular, Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs. He then moved into real estate. In 1997, he persuaded American franchisors to give him a master franchising agreement to open Sbarro pizzerias in Russia. Since 2007, he has been president of the company G.M.R. Planet of Hospitality.
In September 2008, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, he and his relatives opened a Sephardic synagogue in the Triumph Palace residential complex in the north of Moscow. In April 2016, Yelashvili set tongues wagging when he organized the wedding of his eldest daughter Anna in Tel Aviv. The two thousand guests who attended the festivities were entertained by Nikolay Baskov,Soso Pavliashvili, and American rapper Ryan Leslie. A year earlier, Merab’s brother and business partner Georgy had celebrated the wedding of his son in the Moscow Manege, inviting over one and a half thousand people.
Dynamo Stadium Builders Getting the Round Around MPRA
February 6, 2017
Workers at StroyProf, Ltd. (aka SMP, Ltd.) have been on strike since January 9. The firm has done electrical work in the Moscow subway, Dynamo Stadium, and other facilities. StroyProf is yet another example of the fraud thriving in the Moscow construction industry.
Like workers at other construction companies such as SMU-77, Ingeocom, and Horizon, workers at StroyProf have been hoodwinked. Instead of the 30,000 to 40,000 rubles a month they were promised, they have been issued 500 to 2,500 rubles from time to time for food and travel expenses. This has been going on since November 8, 2016. In early January, StroyProf owed different workers between 30,000 and 60,000 rubles.
StroyProf skimps altogether on working conditions and occupational safety.
“One day, the foreman tried to restrict our lunch break to ten minutes. We replied we wouldn’t be eating lunch for an hour. It wouldn’t be ten minutes, either, but as long as we needed. […] On November 14, we went to work at Dynamo Stadium. We were installing ducts. On the first day, we expected the uniforms and shoes required for safety. We were only offered the uniforms and shoes of workers who had the day off. We turned them down, since that doesn’t meet sanitary requirements,” the workers recalled.
In addition, management attempted to force the electricians to work alone on jobs that, according to work safety rules, can be done only by two workers.
On January 9, the workforce downed tools. The strikers contacted the MPRA trade union that had already been coordinating the campaign mounted by workers at SMU-77 and Horizon. On February 9, Horizon and StroyProf workers plan to pay a collective visit to the Moscow office of the Investigative Committee.
The Investigative Committee has become actively involved in the search for Anzor Khubuluri, head of SMU-77, which owes back wages to subway construction workers. Criminal charges have been filed.
The situation with Horizon’s workers, who had been working without contracts, is not as hopeful. The company has officially claimed the workers demanding back pay did not work for them, but off the record they have offered to pay back part of their debt, using the Tajik Migrant Workers movement as mediators.
StroyProf management has also been trying to avoid accountability for their actions. They have threatened workers they will be charged with extortion for demanding payment of wages. However, the example of the subway construction workers, who with MPRA’s help have achieved an appropriate response from law enforcement agencies, has given hope to other groups of hoodwinked workers.
Based on reporting from MPRA Moscow and Moscow Region
Anna Karetnikova: “The worse things are in Russia and the less money there is, the worse things are in the system” OVD Info
October 27, 2016
As promised, OVD Info has published the full version of our interview with Anna Karetnikova, civil rights activist and member of the last three Moscow Commissions for Public Monitoring of Detention Facilities. The term in office of the third Moscow Public Monitoring Commission (PMC) is coming to an end, and by law anyone who has sat on the same commission for three consecutive terms cannot apply to serve on it again. Karetnikova had applied to serve on the Moscow Region PMC, but was not included in the new commission’s lineup. Similar things happened to a large number of civil rights activists who tried to get appointments to PMCs in other parts of Russia.
The interview was conducted shortly before the new lineups of the oversight commissions were made public. In conversation with OVD Info, Karetnikova summed up the work of the Moscow PMC and talked about the Russian penitentiary system’s numerous problems.
What is a PMC?
A PMC is a public monitoring commission of detention facilities. On the basis of Federal Law No. 76, its members are admitted into institutions that have such facilities, from police stations to remand prisons, including temporary detention centers, military prisons, and so on. They see the conditions of detention and can make recommendations on enforcing the law, eliminating violations, and otherwise furthering the legal interests of the persons imprisoned there.
How would you assess the work of the current commission? During your term have you been able to effect changes in the system, in the treatment of inmates, and the way the system interacts with civil rights activists?
I would rate it quite highly. I can speak only about the Moscow PMC. We succeeded in implementing serious reforms in meal services, accountability, and expanding the range of products that can be delivered to inmates in remand prisons. We made definite improvements to the Kaluga Federal Unitary State Enterprise, the [online] prison store or shop where inmates’ relatives can order things for them. We definitely improved the conditions in Women’s Remand Prison No. 6. Unfortunately, among the things that have remained beyond our control and are getting worse, in my opinion, is medical care. The more we try and get on top of it, the worse it gets.
Medical care has remained a fallow field despite the huge effort we made to improve it just a bit. It was like running up the down escalator.
Nothing can be done. I understand the situation with healthcare is the same nationwide, but it is particularly horrible in our remand prisons.
What do you mean by accountability?
Registering complaints. If we are not around, say, the only way an incarcerated inmate can get something is by filing a complaint or petition. We expended a great deal of effort making sure these complaints and petitions were registered normally, because basically they save lives. It can happen that someone asks to see a doctor for six months and submits petitions to this effect, but none of them is registered. Then he dies, and we are sent an official reply that he never requested medical treatment. Continue reading “Anna Karetnikova: Monitoring Moscow’s Prisons”→
You would be forgiven if you imagined Russia’s liberal, leftist, technical, creative, conservative and other intelligentsias were abuzz right now with righteous anger or triumphant glee about what the country’s air force (now officially known, bizarrely, as the Russian Aerospace Forces or VKS) has been up to in Syria and, more specifically, Aleppo, these days.
No, many of them are terribly exercised, in various directions, about the controversy over an exhibition by American photographer Jock Sturges in Moscow.
This was borne out by the websites of some of the country’s leading dailies this morning.
The liberal Vedomosti, a business-oriented newspaper, listed its top stories this morning. The top story was entitled “Faces in a Queue for the iPhone 7”; the second most-read story was about the Sturges show.
True, Vedomosti readers are serious lads and lassies, so the number three story was about Syria. It was headlined, “Five World Powers and EU Demand Decisive Steps from Russia in Syria.”
Earlier today, I posted a few bits from the bizarre article about yesterday’s emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, published in the country’s other serious, formerly liberal, business daily, Kommersant.
Similarly, Moskovsky Komsolomets could not figure out what its readers would find more titillating: reading about how the VKS’s top guns were bombing Aleppo to smithereens or how astroturfed patriots were threatening the God-given right of every self-respecting intelligent to implement Dostoevsky’s maxim that beauty would save the world.
By way of splitting the difference, this morning’s website featured a picture of a chap obviously meant to embody the most average-looking Russian bloke on earth, sadly contemplating one of Sturges’s blasphemous nudes, while a sidebar headline shouts, “Everyone [sic] Is Bombing: Churkin Thinks Peace Impossible in Syria.”
Izvestia has become a particularly noxious loudspeaker for the regime in the past years, so the front page of its website contained a fair number of articles and op-ed pieces chockablock with baldfaced lies about the bloodbath in Aleppo, but at least it had the dignity not to yield to the fake moral panic brewing around the Sturges show.
The relative paucity of Russian media coverage of the Syrian conflict and publicly accessible grassroots reactions was confirmed by the following completely unscientific Google search.
“Джок Стержес” (“Jock Sturges”) got 12,000 more hits than “бомбардироква Алеппо” (“bombing Aleppo”), even though, one could argue, the bombing of Aleppo by somebody or other has been a more topical item in the news for a longer time than Jock Sturges, whatever his longevity or virtues as a contemporary artist.
When I did the same search (“bombing Aleppo”) in English, I got over a million hits.
Certainly, we immediately have to factor in the sheer numbers of Anglophone media and readers in the world. There are quite a few more of both than there are Russophone media and readers, and so one would expect to find more responses to particular topics of global interest in English than in Russian.
But what about the vox pop?
An even more unscientific survey of the Russophone segment of Facebook this morning (that is, the part of the segment to which I have access, amounting to several hundred people, most of whom could be identified as intelligentsia or quasi-intelligentisa) showed that quite a few people were up in arms over the Sturges show or coolly editorializing about it to their extended communities of invisible friends, while literally no one was writing anything about Syria.
This has been the case for the past year. Not only that, but I have shared a fairly large number of articles and opinions about Syria, including my own, over that time, and have elicited a total of zero likes and comments from my Russian Facebook friends.
Non-Russian friends, on the contrary, like and comment on these posts in the same numbers as they and their Russian counterparts usually react to the other, non-Syrian things I write about.
Maybe I have the wrong Russian friends, but my hypothesis is that “politically engaged” or “socially conscious” Russians are literally afraid to say or write anything in public about the Syrian conflict. They have the good sense to know that their president-for-life has sunken his teeth into this geopolitical chew toy and has no intention of unclenching them.
Even more telling, there has not been a single public demonstration in Russia against Russian military involvement in Syria during the past year—to my knowledge, at least.*
Again, this has to be taken with a grain of salt. The current Russian regime has gone out of its way to make public demonstrations and pickets an unattractive pastime for all but the bravest of Russians.
Still, the war in Syria is the central international conflict of our time, and Russia’s best and brightest have literally nothing to say about it, even though their nominally elected government has not been merely a party to the conflict, but has come firmly down on one side, arguably, the wrong side, the side causing the most damage.
I find this deafening public silence about Syria more disturbing than anything else happening in Russia right now.
* After I posted this, Comrade BN wrote the following to me: “In Moscow last year there were some very small pickets protesting against the war in Syria, and the people who organized it attempted to set up an anti-war committee. As far as I know, though, the authorities pretty much intimidated them with varying degrees of extremity into giving up.”
MPs Plan to Evict Hostels from Apartments But entrepreneurs don’t intend to pull up stakes yet
Elena Gorelova Vedomosti
May 12, 2016
At its Friday session [Friday, May 13, 2016], the State Duma will consider a bill that could ban Russian hoteliers from housing hostels in apartment buildings. Galina Khovanskaya, chair of the Duma’s committee on housing and communal services, had tabled the amendment back in September 2015. According to MPs, mini hotels violate the rights of residents in adjacent apartments. If the changes take effect, it will be possible to install hotels in residential buildings only after rezoning the spaces from residential to non-residential. Mini hotels will have to be equipped with soundproofing, fire safety equipment, and security alarms. They will have to be located on the first floor and have a separate entrance.
The ban would have a catastrophic impact on hosteliers, argues Yevgeny Nasonov, chair of the committee on budget accommodations at the Moscow branch of Opora Russia and general director of Clover, a network of hostels. A study conducted by the League of Hostels in December 2015 showed that around 80% of Moscow’s mini hotels and serviced apartments are located in the city’s residential housing stock. In Petersburg, Crimea, and Krasnodar Territory, those percentages are even higher.
From 2012 to 2014, mini hotels were most often opened in residential buildings, says Roman Sabirzhanov, who owns sixteen hostels, including the Fabrika and the Croissant. But residents dissatisfied with their new neighbors then began complaining and showered the prosecutor’s office with lawsuits. Seeing the risks of doing business in residential buildings, Sabirzhanov opened his own hostels in non-residential buildings from the very beginning. It is not always more expensive, he claims. For example, Sabirzhanov has invested 3.5 million rubles [approx. 47,000 euros—TRR] in a new, 225-square-meter hostel on Chistye Prudy. 40% of the money went for rent; 40%, on repairs; and the remaining 20% on obtaining permits and undergoing classification. As of July 1, 2016, all hotels must be classified, receiving from one to five star, while hostels will receive the the no-stars category.
Even if the bill is not passed into law, hostels in residential buildings will be banned sooner or later, Sabirzhanov believes. At the moment, big cities are in the process of being purged of dubious flophouses in the run-up to the 2018 World Football Cup, and hostels have been subjected to more frequent inspections, he says. Even normal hotels might get the axe, the hotelier is convinced. Over the past five years, the number of beds in discount hotels and serviced apartments has grown twentyfold in Moscow, and the major hotel chains that have been lobbying the ban on hostels are not pleased with this redivision of the market, Sabirzhanov claims. He advises hoteliers against making hasty decisions. For the time being, he says, they should operate as they have before, recoup their investments, clean up their premises, and settle conflicts with building residents. At the same time, however, they should think about relocating if they have the means, launching a new hostel in a non-residential space, and going through classification. In the end, you can close the hostel and put the apartment up for rent, says Pavel Gorbov, executive director of Re:Sale Expert.
Launching a small hostel in Moscow runs you approximately two million rubles, estimates Nasonov. But rezoning a space as non-residential is quite expensive for small businesses. Nasonov cites the example of an entrepreneur he knows who has been attempting to build a separate entrance for a store in a residential building near Vykhino subway station. (The procedure for obtaining permissions is the same as for hostels.) He has already spent 1.5 million rubles on construction.
Dr. Yekaterina Chatskaya, a gynecologist at Moscow Municipal Clinic No. 180 and a leader of the Moscow local of trade union Action told Novaya Gazeta what it is like to be a trade unionist when Russia health care has entered an area of turbulence.
Yekaterina Chatskaya is a gynecologist at Moscow Municipal Clinic No. 180. In April 2015, she was involved in a work-to-rule strike by Moscow physicians, meaning that doctors spent as much time with each incoming patient as was necessary and ignored newly introduced, stringent patient-intake standards. Novaya Gazeta found out what happened with the strike and personally with Dr. Chatskaya over the past year.
How did last year’s work-to-rule strike end?
I kept a diary of my patient intakes. We analyzed the standards that took shape during the course of the strike and sent them to the head physician. It turned out our figures were similar to those issued by the Health Ministry. But the problem is that the Health Ministry’s standards are recommendations. They are not obligatory, meaning that they virtually don’t function in practice.
For example, in Moscow, a gynecologist’s standard intake time varies from twelve to fifteen minutes at different hospitals, but the federally recommended initial appointment time is twenty-two minutes. That is a fundamental difference.
In the blogs and appeals written by physicians, they say they are fighting to increase appointment times by three minutes. Do these minutes add up to something in actual practice?
Of course, they do. I have a fifteen-minute limit for seeing a single patient, and I see patients for six hours in a row without a break, meaning this limit does not include a lunch break or even a simple trip to the toilet. Over this six-hour period, according to the standards, I should be able to see twenty-four patients, who have registered in the electronic data base. But it is virtually impossible to keep up with this pace. There are complicated patients, and there are urgent cases. Old women dress slowly. They require a special approach. And you must not hurry pregnant women at all, whether someone is pregnant for the first time or has had a miscarriage in the past. But when the intake period lasts longer than six hours, it is inevitable that doctors make mistakes. Your concentration is reduced, and your eyes are tired.
You really feel by the end of the intake period that you are losing concentration and can make a mistake?
That is exactly why I started thinking about how long it takes to examine a patient in reality. Before the strike, my official intake period lasted seven hours, but in fact it came to eight hours without stopping. After the strike, we succeeded in getting six-hour schedules, while everything is still the same at other clinics.
Has what happened last year changed anything about your team?
At first, a lot of people wanted to support me, but when a group letter was drafted and we took it to other doctors for them to sign it, people got scared. The head physician called me into his office and said it was extremism, that I was going against the regime, although there were no political demands at all in the letter. Certain colleagues stopped speaking to me altogether.
But the turning point came. A year ago, we organized a local of the independent trade union Action (Deistvie). Initially, there were three of us. Now there are six times as many. We managed to stop the introduction of so-called effective contracts. One of the points in the contracts was that incentive pay would be based only on the decision of the clinic or hospital director. My pay consists of 20,000 rubles base salary and roughly the same amount in incentive pay. Under the so-called effective contracts, incentive pay would have included work assignments that are not part of my job description. Theoretically, if I had refused to mop the floors on the orders of the department head, I could have been stripped of my incentive pay. We wrote to the head physician and the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office acknowledged the decree facilitated corruption and ordered it abolished. This was a victory. But many clinics have switched to the so-called effective contracts.
Your latest protest campaign has targeted the Moscow Health Clinics Standard. What don’t you like about it?
The standard has led to a collapse at work, and not only at our clinic. During the flu epidemic, GPs were working over twelve hours a day. One doctor made a house call to a patient at one-thirty in the morning, and before that she had been seeing patients since eight in the morning, and then went out on house calls. Another colleague of mine worked three weeks without a single day off.
They have begun to drive away specialists. How? For example, a GP has to refer a patient to an endocrinologist. But to do this, he or she has to write up a full justification for the referral, get the chart and referral signed by the department head, and manage all this within the twelve-minute limit for the appointment. Management have been strongly advising GPs not to refer patients to specialists but to threat them themselves. Naturally, the endocrinologist sits there without any work. After some time has passed, management decides that since such a small number of patients come to see him, the clinic has no need of his services. Our clinic fired a mammalogist, a dentist, and an endocrinologist in this way. There is very big queue to see the gastroenterologist. But our clinic immediately set up paid appointments to see him. If you have the money, you will be served right way.
Getting an ultrasound appointment has become a disaster. In late 2014, one ultrasound specialist went on maternity leave, a second was cut, and a third resigned of her own accord. For several months, a single specialist examined pregnant women in the entire district of Mitino. It even came to blows at the terminal when two women fought over an ultrasound appointment voucher. Another big minus of the reforms has been the virtual abolition of the principle of neighborhood health care.
Now you can make an appointment with any primary care physician at a clinic. Is that a bad thing?
In our conditions, it is a bad thing, because it leads to the unavailability of medical care. For example, my primary care neighborhood covers six thousand people, although according to the standards I should be serving two thousand two hundred people. When my appointment bookings for fourteen days in advance open up at 7:30 on a Monday morning, the appointment vouchers are already gone by eight in the morning. Patients can now choose a doctor themselves, and naturally they choose doctors with good reputations. Inevitably, these doctors will be overbooked. Patients assigned to these doctors as their neighborhood doctors are simply unable to get an appointment to see them, although they will be seeing many patients from other neighborhoods.
An absurd situation has developed. The municipal health department monitors the availability of specialists. On our clinic’s overall chart, there is constantly a red light next to my name, meaning that I violate the norm, because patients sign up to see me two weeks in advance. A good doctor is not profitable to a clinic because she or he skews the statistics.
How much do you earn?
My take-home pay is between twenty-five and thirty thousand rubles a month. My last paycheck was 35,000 rubles [approx. 465 euros a month per the current exchange rate—TRR]. I have been working at this salary since April of last years. I am not paid a kopeck more, only the mandatory minimum.
Does the Moscow health department know about this situation?
Yes. We regularly appeal to them. The last appeal by primary care physicians was sent to them on March 31. After that, we got paid a little more.
Doctors are pushed to the limit. Seeing the shiny pictures on the TV, our patients imagine that everything is alright with medical care, and if something is wrong, it is the doctor’s fault. A patient can come and sit outside a doctor’s door for an hour: that means he is a bad doctor. It was that way at first, though now, it is true, patients have begun to realize that if there is a queue, it means the doctor is good. I was reprimanded when an urgent care patient got wedged into my schedule, and I was unable to see another patient before my lunch break. I asked her to wait, but when I came back fifteen minutes later, she was filling out a complaint in the department head’s office. I was reprimanded, even though the patient was seen the very same day after my break.
Would it be easier if the Health Ministry issued strict regulations rather than recommendations?
It would be ideal. We have written several times to the Moscow health department asking them to establish regulations in keeping with the Labor Code and the Russian federal government decree stipulating that a doctor should see patients for no more than thirty-three hours a week. The reply we received was meaningless, as always.
Meanwhile, our head physician issues orders that violate the recommended norms. These two realities do not intersect at all.
For example, hardship pay has been abolished throughout Moscow. Even our radiologists lost additional holidays and pay. But the federal decree clearly stipulates that medical workers who come into contact with HIV and tuberculosis should receive both additional pay and additional holidays.
Folders from KGB Archive Dumped in Pile on Bolshaya Lubyanka Street What are the covers for the country’s main documents doing outside?
March 16, 2016 Moslenta.ru
A MOSLENTA correspondent has discovered a mound of folders from the KGB Central Archive in the vicinity of Lubyanka Square. About a hundred empty boxes are lying along the wall at Bolshaya Lubyanka Street, 14, right next to the Orlov-Denisov House aka the Pozharsky Palace.
“There are KGB archival folders lying in the yard,” said our correspondent. “I took a couple snapshots on my telephone, and security guards immediately ran up to me. ‘What do you think you are doing?’ they said. ‘We got a call from the FSB. What are you doing here?’ They asked me to stop shooting.”
The duty officer at the Public Relations Center of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) informed MOSLENTA that he knew nothing about the KGB files and could not comment on their appearance in downtown Moscow.