“We all understand that December 31 is a half-working day”

How State Duma deputies wanted to present a New Year's surprise to the people offering to make the last day of the year a weekend

“We all understand that December 31 is a half-working day”
Photo: duma.gov.ru

Despite years of controversy, December 31 will remain a full-time working day in this “coronavirus” year. Although just at this time, the federal authorities had a strong argument to repeat last year's pre-holiday campaign, when half the country “worked” for the rest day “under the New Year tree” in advance, on December 28. On 26 November, the State Duma rejected a draft bill to provide a substitute holiday on December 31, if it is not so on the calendar. “People are already tired of resting and they want to work even on the last day of the year," the representative of the United Russia faction assured deputies, brushing aside the counter-arguments about the inevitability of workers to go shopping.

December 31, rest or not?

A heated discussion broke out at the meeting of the State Duma around the draft bill of the LDPR faction on the day off on December 31, which was introduced by deputies a year ago. It was supposed to introduce the pre-new year's holiday officially in a simple way: to make it a non-working day instead of a regular weekend. “One of the days off of the corresponding calendar year is transferred by a regulatory legal act of the Government of the Russian Federation to December 31, if this day is not a day off," the text of the draft bill says. If the initiative was supported, it is likely that by December 31, the draft bill would have “bypassed” three readings and would have had time to “enter into force on the day of publication”. Moreover, as its authors emphasised, this initiative will not cause costs covered by the federal budget.

Deputy Yaroslav Nilov presented the draft law on the December 31 holiday. He recalled that now, according to Article 112 of the Labour Code of the Russian Federation, December 31 is a working day. Although practice shows that employees often do not perform their work functions in full, which is due to the preparation for the celebration of the New Year. “We all understand that this is a half-working day that harms the economy," he argued. “Employees take a day off at their own expense, take time off or just ask for time off. You can't really work effectively on this day.” Moreover, last year the regions themselves decided whether to declare a day off on December 31. “Half of the subjects rested, half — worked half a day," he reminded, making it clear that the leaders of regions understand that December 31 is actually a non-working day, although it is disguised as a regular one. Russian President Vladimir Putin supported them in this endeavor.

According to the deputy, the proposed transfer of the weekend to December 31 will allow employees and employers to use weekends and non-working holidays more efficiently. Photo: duma.gov.ru

Yaroslav Nilov said that the government has the authority to transfer the rest days to other days in case of overlapping of the weekend and non-working holidays, and it “must be obliged to carry out the transfer of rest days so that December 31 is a holiday, if this day is not a rest day according to the calendar”. At the same time, the total number of non-working holidays will remain the same, as established by the Labour Code of the Russian Federation. According to the deputy, the proposed transfer of the weekend to December 31 will allow employees and employers to use weekends and non-working holidays more efficiently, as well as to maintain a balance of interests between employees, employers and trade unions. “But the government does not use it and behaves like a dog in the hay," the deputy was indignant.

United Russia: people want to work after pandemic

Valentina Kabanova, the deputy chairperson of the Committee on Labour, Social Policy and Veterans' Affairs, member of the United Russia faction, made a response co-report. “This initiative is overdue," she said. “Recent meetings with voters show that people are tired of resting and want to work even in the last days of the year.”

Why was the transfer considered to be overdue? As it turned out, next year December 31 is declared a rest day, and in 2022 and 2023, the pre-New Year's day falls on Saturday and Sunday. For this reason, she suggested rejecting the initiative.

“This initiative is overdue," she said. “Recent meetings with voters show that people are tired of resting and want to work even in the last days of the year.” Photo: duma.gov.ru

Then the deputies offered to start with themselves and show their working days in the State Duma. “Can you imagine what is happening on December 31?" Deputy Vasily Vlasov asked. “If we need to work, then let's invite the Russian government to a State Duma meeting on December 31 with a report," the deputies were excited. “Our faction is ready to continue working until 6 pm on this day.” Deputy Nikita Berezin was worried that on this day employees would go shopping, ride in a crowded subway, and “there is no question of social distance at all”. In other words, he was worried that there might be risks of new infections. In response, Valentina Kabanova, the deputy chairperson of the Committee on Labour, Social Policy and Veterans' Affairs and member of the United Russia faction, disagreed with him. Vice-Speaker of the State Duma Alexander Zhukov, along with her, noted that on this day “everyone does salads in the kitchen”.

Yaroslav Nilov stopped the discussion again, noting that the discussion “went in a different direction”, since it is not about a new rest day, but about the transfer of weekends. But he could not convince the deputies, and the draft bill was rejected by a majority of votes.

A poll on Instagram helps Minnikhanov

Last year, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov did a poll on Instagram on whether to make December 31 a rest day. At that time, few people believed in the seriousness of the possibility of the weekend transfer, taking it as a joke. However, within a few days, December 31 was declared a est day in 2019. “Today I have signed an order — on December 28 we go to work, on the 31st — we have a rest. I urge all organisations on the territory of the republic to join. Happy holidays!” Minnikhanov posted on Instagram.

“Of course, we could transfer one of the eight New Year's days to December 31, because the New Year's day will never be characterised by high labour productivity," stated in the Association of Industrial Enterprises and Entrepreneurs of the Republic of Tatarstan. “Besides, it is itself a half day.

However, within a few days, December 31 was declared a rest day in 2019

But if we take it as a whole, in our country the concept of a holiday day has been greatly devalued. “Even without this, there are enough understandable and incomprehensible holidays: there are both state and religious ones. Two years ago, industrialists led by KAMAZ CEO Sergey Kogogin came out with an initiative to the government to reduce public holidays. It is estimated that out of 360 calendar days, approximately 128 are non-working, that is, almost every third. When will we work? And if we add another day off on December 31 to this round of holidays, isn't it too much?" the head of one of the Tatarstan enterprises fears.

Nevertheless, private businesses are not in a festive mood. “We don't care whether December 31 is a rest day or not. Entrepreneurs work every day," said Liana Saetova, the president of the Tatarstan regional public organization Business Women of Tatarstan. The Kazan branch of Russian Railways also reacted indifferently to December 31. “Our trains are on the way every day. Russian Railways employees do not ask for a day off — they work strictly on schedule. But on December 31, they will work an hour less," said the head of the department, Alexander Cheremnykh. He personally doesn't care whether to rest or work on December 31, he admitted. However, many people noticed that if you want, the issue can be solved simply — like Rustam Minnikhanov through a poll in social networks.

By Luiza Ignatyeva
Tatarstan