In Ryazan, the labour conflict between ambulance workers and the administration came to a dramatic end. The doctors were dissatisfied with penny wages, lack of benefits and systematic work overload. They formed a union and announced the preparation of an “Italian strike“. The authorities responded by threatening the ambulance doctors with prosecution for trying to assert their rights during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the doctors “realized their mistake” and postponed the strike. They expressed hope that the regional authorities will also be imbued with responsibility for medical assistance to residents of Ryazan region. Will these hopes come true? We will see.
The conflict arose two years ago. The drivers of Ryazan ambulance complained about low salaries and abolition of benefits. Due to the poor pay, the ambulance is constantly experiencing a shortage of workers, as a result of which drivers are forced to constantly work extra hours. At the same time, payment for overtime has been calculated in violation of applicable law, which was admitted even by the labor inspectorate. However, the management was in no hurry to comply with instructions.
The people’s patience snapped in March. The doctors created a union, that on March 18 published an appeal to the regional and federal authorities. The doctors, paramedics and drivers demanded the creation of a working group to solve their problems as soon as possible, otherwise they would launch an “Italian strike”. We emphasize that this was not about a real strike, but only about an “Italian strike”, that is, work with strict observance of job descriptions and regulations. Needless to say, this measure is fully consistent with the law.
The reaction of the authorities turned out to be quite traditional for our state. The officials responded with threats to the legitimate demands of the medics. According to the chairman of “Action” trade union, Andrei Konoval, “explanatory work” has begun at ambulance stations; the employees were intimidated with false accusations that working in accordance with the rules in a pandemic means becoming a criminal. The station chief physician, Igor Zadoya, announced that those who don’t like something can quit. The representative of the “official” (think: corrupted) trade union, Lyubov Kokina, aggressively demanded that the workers not take out the dirty linen in public.
Today a statement was issued by the trade union organization, which announced the postponement of the “Italian strike.” The ambulance workers wrote:
“We are forced to take this step, as we are aware of our moral responsibility for the most complete provision of emergency assistance to the citizens in difficult times for the country … However, we expect that both the Ministry of Health and the Government of Ryazan Region, in turn, will commit themselves to be attentive to the collective appeal of medical workers… We are ready to fulfill our professional duty, and at the same time we demand the same attitude from the regional authorities, who are fully responsible for organising the proper provision of medical aid to the population of Ryazan region.
Thus, the drivers, paramedics and ambulance doctors of Ryazan region will keep working under the old conditions. And, therefore, the region residents will keep receiving emergency medical care from exhausted, nervous, overworked and underpaid people. Will the authorities take measure to ease the situation? Time will tell.
Using the coronavirus pandemic excuse as a baton to counter workers’ fair demands seems to be becoming a trend. Ordinary Russians are required to work hard in “difficult times for the country”, and oligarchs and high officials keep getting fatter.