The Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights for 2013 is awarded to Russian trade union leader Valentin Urusov.
The committee`s citation:
Urusov spent several years in jail after leading a strike
against dangerous working conditions and low pay in the diamond
industry. Urusov was jailed on what were obviously fabricated
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. Urusov has become an important symbol of the struggle
for workers' rights and freedom of association in Russia.
Valentin Urusov led the trade union Profsvoboda at Alrosa, the
world's second largest diamond mining company, based in the
northern Sakha province of Russia. In August 2008 a thousand
workers, led by Urusov, held a hunger strike in protest of
working conditions and low pay. A week later, Urusov was arrested, driven out
to the taiga and beaten up. The police threatened to kill him and forced him to
sign a confession admitting possession of drugs. The police had brought one of
Alrosa's managers along as a witness, an example of how the company controls
the courts and the police in the republic.
Urusov was entenced to five years in jail based on the clearly
false accusations of drug
possession. Russian and international trade union organisations and a number of
human rights organisations have been involved in trying to get him released,
and a formal complaint to ILO led to ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association
demanding Urusov's immediate acquittal in November 2012.
Urusov was released in March this year after it became
known he had been nominated for the Svensson prize. The rest of his
sentence has been converted into a fine
demanding 15% of his income throughout the remainder of his sentence, and he is
not permitted to leave the country.
The imprisonment and harassment of Urusov has become
symbolic of the struggle of trade unions 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
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 committee is concerned about the situation for workers' rights in Russia. Freedom of association and the 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 in order to bring these conditions into focus, and in support of Russian workers.