Some of Russias largest companies have come a long way in emulating their Western peers in terms of corporate governance, financial transparency, and respect of shareholder rights. By doing so, they have not only generated enormous wealth, but earned international respect. But respect cannot stop there. Respect for labor is also part of reforming a company.
The industrial action at Norilsk Nickel is a tragedy and the company should be ashamed of itself. The worlds top nickel and palladium producer, currently graced with high international commodity prices, has been so intransigent with the companys labor representatives that some workers have commenced a hunger strike.
As the state is pathetically ill-equipped to protect workers rights, business needs to take the lead in the area. Norilsk Nickel could easily turn this story to its advantage and, in the process, show itself to be an industry leader. At present, Norilsk Nickel appears like a sweatshop plucked from a Dickens novel. The company should seize the moment and do the right thing: settle with its workers in good faith. In doing so, it will demonstrate that one benchmark defining a modern company is respect of its employees.