- Falsely imprisoned for leading a strike in Russia
"Urusov has become symbolic of the struggle for workers' rights
and freedom of association in Russia," says Leif Sande, committee
chair and head of the LO trade
union Industri Energi.
The Arthur Svensson prize is a prize from a broad Norwegian
movement. This year's prize goes to fearless trade union leader Valentin Urusov,
who was falsely imprisoned for many years. As the leader of the trade
union Profsvoboda at Alrosa, the world's second largest diamond mining company, he led a hunger strike with more than one thousand workers against inhumane working conditions and low pay.
The prize committee:
Leif Sande, Committee Chair (Industri Energi), former LO presidents Gerd-Liv Valla and Yngve Hågensen, Randi Bjørgen (former President of the Confederation of Vocational Unions), Helga Hjetland (former President of the Union of Education Norway), Finn Erik Thoresen (Board Leader of Norwegian People's Aid) and Liv Tørres (General Secretary of Norwegian People's Aid).
A forced confession
After the strike, Urusov was arrested, then beaten up and his life was then threatened. He was forced to sign a confession admitting possession of drugs. The police had
brought an executive from Alrosa along as a witness, an example of how the
company controls courts and the police in the republic.
"He was imprisoned on what were clearly false accusations, and both the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Russian and international trade union organisations have been involved in trying to get him released," says Leif Sande, committee chair and head of the LO trade union Industri Energi, which took the initiative for the prize.
Released, but not free
Urusov was released in March of this year after it became known that he had
been nominated for the Svensson prize. The rest of his five year prison
sentence has been converted into a fine demanding 15% of his income throughout
the remainder of his sentence. In addition, he is not permitted to leave the
The imprisonment and harassment of Urusov has become symbolic of the struggle for workers' rights and freedom of association in Russia. The committee alludes to the fact that he has full support from all the Russian trade unions, and that he was nominated for the prize by a number of trade union organisations throughout Europe. The international trade union movement, led by the International Trade Union Confederation, has been highly involved in his case.
"The Arthur Svensson international prize is first and
foremost a helping hand - and an acknowledgment - to union
officials and trade unionists around the world
fighting for workers' rights under dangerous conditions," says Sande. We thank
this year's recipient of the prize, Valentin Urusov, for his courage in the
fight against poor working conditions in the Russian diamond industry.
The committee expresses concern
In their citation, the committee write that they are concerned about the workers'
rights situation in Russia. The right of free association, right to collective
bargaining and right to strike have long been under pressure, and it may appear
that conditions are deteriorating further under Putin's current regime. Thus,
the prize is also being awarded to bring these conditions into focus, and in
support of Russian workers.
Read the committee's citation in full under prizewinners.
The Arthur Svensson international prize
The Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights is awarded to individuals who, or organisations which, have made noteworthy efforts to promote the work of trade unions and workers' rights nationally and internationally. Last year's prize went to the trade union Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union, C.CAWDU. The prize is NOK 500,000 and is awarded annually. The prize is named for the former leader of the Norwegian Union of Chemical Industry Workers, Arthur Svensson, who was especially engaged in international solidarity.
This year, the prize will be awarded during a formal ceremony held at Folkets Hus on the 19th June.