Economic crises and the deterioration of people’s living standards result in the activation of trade unions, which are not normally inclined to act. The state-run trade unions activate quickly when workers get slightly discontent, but if they lead the protests, they never go too far, finding excuses for the government, which was suggestedly not given something or cheated by someone. This was the situation in autumn-winter 1998: irrespective of all the strong threats, they never really organized any serious protests. Neither could all the efforts of the most active and unruly state-run trade unions, of agricultural machine producers and electronics workers help out of the situation.

Free trade unions would like to support protests, but they are too small and feel constant pressure from law enforcers and the administration of state-run factories, where their grassroots organizations still remained. There are no trade unions, state-run or independent, at private companies.

The results of the survey show that, unlike in the Soviet times, people cannot be easily driven into state-run unions, while free unions are too small to be influential (Table 1).

Table 1. To which trade union are you a member, %

It feels that the leaders of government trade unions fear protests, because they are afraid of losing the support of workers, on behalf of whom they operate. It can be justified by the president’s negative stance to trade unions, of which he repeatedly informed his electorate, and which many perceived as instructions.

Table 2. Trust for important state and public institutions (%)

* The trust rating is a relation of the “Yes” answers (showing trust), “No” answers (showing mistrust) and neutral answers (no answer) to the number of respondents. The rate may fluctuate between +1 (maximum trust) and –1 (minimum trust)

However, these are most likely the results of a policy of carrying out government directives, which was pursued by the leaders of state-controlled trade unions for many years. Lately, these unions were unable to make the authorities improve the living standards of their members. Small wonder, many respondents disapproved of their activities. One third of respondents was sure that trade unions advocated their own interests and tried to advertise their leaders rather than struggle for the rights of workers. 13.7% of respondents claimed that there was little justice to the activities of trade unions, because they wanted better living for workers of companies, which do not operate efficiently or produce non-competitive output. Therefore it is understandable that respondents have little trust in trade unions (Table 2).