‘It has to be today’ Transcript from secretly recorded meeting shows what it’s like to be fired from Moscow’s subway for supporting Alexey Navalny
Responding to last month’s protests in support of imprisoned opposition politician Alexey Navalny, the Moscow subway system fired nearly 40 employees, a union leader told the news outlet Open Media on Friday, May 14. According to Moscow City Duma deputy Mikhail Timonov, administrators at the subway have also demanded that several hundred more staff tender their resignations. In both cases, the individuals affected had either registered online to attend recent pro-Navalny demonstrations or one of their relatives did. One of these people contacted Meduza and supplied the audio recording of a conversation with his supervisors where he was told he needed to quit.
The Moscow subway employee who provided this to Meduza asked us not to reveal his name or the specific department in which he worked. He told Meduza that he was summoned to meet with two of his supervisors on May 12 and instructed to resign. He secretly recorded the conversation. With some minor redactions, Meduza is publishing a translated transcript.
Supervisors: The situation is such that the organization represented by the Moscow Metro no longer wishes to work with you.
Supervisors: I can’t tell you the reason because I don’t know, but we’ve got orders to terminate things with you. Dismissed as of today. What can we offer you? We can do a mutually agreed contract without severance, but with unused vacation time. We need to know if it’s a yes or a no because there’s always a “Plan A” and a “Plan B.”
[The employee asks to wait two weeks to file his resignation. The request is denied.]
Supervisors: You need to understand that this isn’t our initiative and the date for this is set in stone. It has to be today. This comes from up top, but we don’t know whose initiative it is. The orders came down and the date is today. There’s no other choice. It has to be today.
Employee: Who else can I talk to about this?
Supervisors: There’s nobody else. We’re giving you the employer’s position here. This has to be resolved today, and the company is offering is resignation by mutual agreement. This whole situation has us scratching our heads, too. They’ve made this decision and left no room for any discussion or appeal, no room to move the date, and no chance of doing this at all differently. This is it, they said.
[The employee then asks for some time to discuss the situation with his family, but his supervisors convince him not to leave their office without signing a formal resignation letter.]
Supervisors: The company’s position won’t change — it has to be today. [We wish] we could send you on vacation or delay the date, but the situation is what it is. There’s just one option, whether you think about it or discuss it with anyone.
[The employee is given 15 minutes to consider things, after which time he announces that he refuses to resign, as instructed. His supervisors then inform him that they will fire him for missing work. Hearing this, he finally agrees to resign.]
The now-former subway worker told Meduza that he did upload his email address to the “Free Navalny” website, where supporters could RSVP for future protests. He also insists that he never “posted or reposted” any content online about Navalny or the movement’s demonstrations. In mid-April, days before nationwide protests, hackers leaked thousands of email addresses registered with Navalny’s activist team.
Cover photo: Denis Vyshinsky / TASS