SUR Drew Attention of the Ministry of Labour to Gender Issues of the Shipping Industry

Svetlana Medvedeva

The Seafarers’ Union of Russia requested the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev and the Ministry of Labour of Russia to consider the issues of violations of women's right to work in the chosen occupation and to revise the List of Hard Works, Involving Harmful or Dangerous Working Conditions, Which Women May Not Perform approved by the Resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation of 25 February 2000 No. 162. The answer was not long in coming—in the Ministry of Labour have assured that the work on updating the List and reducing the number of works restricting the employment of women had already begun.

The SUR took on this work when Svetlana Medvedeva, a navigator from Samara, called upon the assistance of the Union. Svetlana herself has encountered gender discrimination in the fleet—for more than three years she was not allowed to pass the practice as a navigator with the Samara River Passenger Company (SRPP) due to the fact that the work performed by motorman-steersman has been recognized as being “harmful to women.”

Before contacting the SUR, Svetlana submitted an on-line complaint to the President from where her letter was forwarded to the Federal Labour and Employment Service (Rostrud). In the Ministry of Labour, she was advised that employer, if he wants, may hire a woman for harmful work, but only after safe working conditions are created, which should be confirmed by the outcomes of workplace assessment. Medvedeva submitted a complaint to the court to make SRPP to create necessary working condition for women. But the district and regional courts sided with the employer and the application was refused.

“Svetlana Medvedeva is a very competent and responsible specialist. So PPRA’s refusals to employ her were completely unrelated to her professional skills,” says Chairman of the SUR Central and West-Siberian Territorial Organization Vyacheslav Anokhin.

In 2013, Svetlana Medvedeva filed a complaint with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Her claim was finally considered in March 2016. The members of the Committee sided with Svetlana Medvedeva, and made a number of recommendations to the Government of the Russian Federation as a UN member state, but no response has been received neither from the employer nor from the Government.

“On 11 August we again appealed to the Samara District Court on newly discovered evidence (Committee’s decision), and on 10 October we appealed to the Samara Regional Court, but were refused. The Samara courts have not considered the decision of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to be a sufficient basis for resolving the case,” Medvedeva said.

Just a month following Svetlana’s last going to court she attended the SUR VIII Congress which adopted a Resolution, “On Violation of Women's Right to Work in the Chosen Occupation or Profession in Relation to the Possibility of Their Work as Crew Members of Maritime and River Fleet.” It was at the core of the Seafarers’ Union of Russia’s request addressed to the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev and the Ministry of Labour of the Russian Federation.

In its request, the SUR noted that formally the employers’ refusals to employ women in the merchant fleet meet legal restrictions designed to “preserve their health”. But such a view totally overlooks the fact that hard labour and work in harmful or hazardous working conditions is equally a negative impact on the health of both women and men.

The Seafarers’ Union of Russia believes that the strategic direction should be the creation of safe working conditions in all areas of professional activity, strengthening the responsibility of employers for the creation of these conditions, as well as achieving gender equality in employment.

In its response, the Ministry of Labour of the Russian Federation noted that “due to changes in technology of modern production and the recent changes of socio-hygienic conditions of a number of professions,” the Ministry of Labor has already launched “collecting and processing proposals of the social partners and experts on updating of the List” providing assurance that the SUR’s proposals will be considered.

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