Russia's prime minister has warned companies to keep people employed and pay them their salaries even as they struggle amid a growing economic crisis caused by the coronavirus and the plummet in global oil prices.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told a government meeting on March 21 called to deal with the impact of the virus that firings should only be "an extreme measure." Companies that cut staff will be closely watched and could face inspections, he said.
"If someone is tempted to use the noise around the coronavirus to solve their current problems by firing staff, such enterprises will be visited by the labor inspection, federal tax service and the prosecutor's office," he said.
Russia temporarily halted inspections of small and medium-size businesses as one of the measures to support the economy. However, the moratorium could be lifted if salaries aren't paid on time or people are fired, he said.
Enterprises should seek to move employees to shorter work days or have them work from home, he said. Mishustin said the government will be monitoring the labor market in the regions on a weekly basis, especially in cities and towns that have one major employer or industry.
Many major Russian towns in the Urals and Siberia are dependent on one industry, such as steel, coal, and iron, and have suffered significantly in previous downturns as large unemployment pressures the local budget.
Raspadskaya, a Russian producer of coking coal for the steel industry, said it was preparing for a possible halt to sales for six months to a year.
Separately, Mishustin said the Central Bank was launching preferential lending programs to help companies caught in a liquidity crunch.
Economy Minister Maksim Reshetnikov said his ministry was preparing an aid package for restaurants and tour operators, which have been among the hardest-hit sectors.
He also said his ministry was preparing a bill that would impose a moratorium on bankruptcies.