20.06.13
Deeply appreciative of the support

Russian trade union leader Valentin Urusov was honoured with this year's Arthur Svensson International Prize for Union Rights at a formal ceremony at the Oslo Congress Centre on the 19th of June.

-I would like to thank each person that contributed to my release and supported me as a candidate for this award, said Urusov in his video greeting to the over 200 guests. Russian authorities have banned him from leaving the country.

The 2013 Arthur Svensson International Prize was granted to Russian trade unionist Valentin Urusov to the beautiful tones of Norwegian singer Unni Wilhelmsen. Boris Kravchenko accepted the prize, per Urusov's request. Boris is the head of KTR – the Confederation of Labour of Russia, which is where Urusov works.

-I am very sorry to have been prevented from attending the prize ceremony. I would like to thank every person who contributed to my release, and supported me as a candidate for the Arthur Svensson International Prize. It is a great honour for me, which I will proud of for my whole life, said Urusov in his acceptance speech which was transmitted on the big screen at the Oslo Congress Centre. Over 200 national and international guests were present at the ceremony to honour the recipient of the prize.

Solidarity across national boundaries

Valentin Urusov has been jailed, beaten up, and his life has been threatened for his brave fight for better working conditions in the Russian diamond industry.

-Tears came to my eyes every time I read the news in prison about all of the people around the world who held solidarity demonstrations and supported me, and other people who were thrown into prison due to their social commitment. Before I was imprisoned, I didn't have the remotest idea of what real solidarity in the international trade movement could accomplish. I sincerely hope that the time will come when solidarity, common understanding and community are commonplace throughout the world, and not only in the trade union movement, said a grateful Urusov.

Fighting for union rights

The prize-winner believes that the Russian trade union movement is facing many challenges, including in relation to employees' fight for the right to establish trade unions and for the opportunity to conduct independent trade union work.

-It is the fight against oppression and persecution of trade unionists that is taken to court as a result of trade union activity. It is also a fight to simplify the procedure for organizing legal strikes. Following my release, I have begun involving myself in this fight together with my trade union comrades. I am convinced that no reprisals can lessen our desire for independence, liberty and justice.

Supporting an independent trade union movement

Valentin Urusov will use the NOK 500,000 award money to support the independent trade union movement in Russia and trade union activists who suffer unlawful persecution.

-I will also send some of the money to a solidarity fund that supports all struggling trade unions, said Urusov during his speech. My receiving of this prize is primarily thanks to the independent Russian trade union movement. I consider this prize to be an important driving force that may help develop an independent trade union movement in Russia. This is especially important these days, when my country is going through fairly hard times. Once again I would like to thank the committee of the Svensson International Prize, who give enormous support to the global trade union movement, said a thankful Urusov.

Concerned

On behalf of the prize committee, Leif Sande, committee chair and president of Industri Energi, expressed concern for the situation regarding union rights in Russia.

-The right to organize and the right to negotiate and strike have been under pressure for much time. The situation appears to be deteriorating further under Vladimir Putin's present regime. Russia has passed a number of new and potentially oppressive laws. The right to strike is limited, and astronomical fines are given for organizing or participating in illegal demonstrations. Non-governmental organizations that are involved in 'political activities' must register as 'foreign agents' if they receive money from abroad, and a number of oppositionists have had trouble lately with the police and the prosecuting authorities.

– Next to the personal recognition to Valentin Urusov for having taken up the fight for the workers in the diamond mining industry, the award has also been granted to cast light on the condition of union rights in Russia, and must be seen as a gesture of support for all Russian workers, said Sande during his speech at the award ceremony.

Source: Industri Energi

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