In the absence of slavery, worker and employer enter into an enforceable contractual agreement whereby the former is regularly paid by the latter. The systematic non‐payment of wages in Russia is the most tangible manifestation of the absence of the rule of law in that country and represents a potent obstacle to the development of effective trade unionism. However, the wage issue has to be set in the context of the wider malaise of non‐payment which exists, and for which central government must bear primary responsibility. This paper explores the dilemmas which this situation presents to the union movement and seeks to address the questions of what can and should the unions do about the situation? Because of the depth of the crisis inflicted on the economy by “shock therapy”, the answers are not to be found in the bankruptcy courts. While not abrogating their union functions, the trade unions must seek the satisfaction of realisable political demands.
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