Putin’s National Cultural Heritage Fund finally pays wage arrears owed to laid-off workers
Russia’s National Cultural Heritage Fund has paid off its debts to its former employees, who were laid off during the coronavirus lockdown. The fund is responsible for a large-scale construction project aimed at creating four cultural-educational complexes in Kaliningrad, Vladivostok, Kemerovo, and Sevastopol. The idea for the project came from President Vladimir Putin, who’s personally overseeing its development.
Several of the fund’s former employees told Meduza that wages owed to laid-off workers were paid in October. According to them, they were transferred the amounts owed to them for wages and severance pay arrears, but weren’t paid any compensation for the delay or moral damages. The fund’s director, Nataliya Volynskaya, confirmed to Meduza that the wage arrears have been paid off. A source told Meduza that in total, the fund owed almost 164 million rubles (about $2.1 million) to downsized and remaining employees.
As Meduza reported previously, the fund underwent large-scale cuts in the summer of 2020: the majority of its employees, who had been working on the project since its launch in 2018, were let go over the course of a few days during the coronavirus lockdown. In June, 128 people were dismissed (in total, the fund was in debt to 137 workers). They didn’t receive any wage arrears or severance pay.
The downsized workers wrote several letters to Putin, as well as Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and the heads of the Bolshoi Theater, Hermitage Museum, Mariinsky Theater, and Tretyakov Gallery. The fund’s employees have also filed a total of more than 80 court claims (about half of which were partially met). Then, at the beginning of September, they recorded a video message to Putin.
In the video, the dismissed workers underscore that official appeals to the president, prosecutor’s office, members of the government, and to the labor inspectorate didn’t work, and court decisions in favor of collecting debts from their employers haven’t been enforced. “You’re the only person in the country who can hear us,” one of the fund’s former employees said to Putin. The prosecutor’s office conducted a check at the fund in mid-September.
The National Cultural Heritage Fund’s project aimed at creating cultural-educational complexes in Kaliningrad, Vladivostok, Kemerovo, and Sevastopol includes the construction of new branches of the Bolshoi Theater, Hermitage Museum, Mariinsky Theater, and Tretyakov Gallery. The project costs an estimated 120 billion rubles (more than $1.5 billion) and is sponsored by Russia’s most secretive state-owned holding company: Rosneftgaz. The fund’s employees were fired at Rosneftgaz’s request, specifically.
Translation by Eilish Hart