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Russian parliament backs new labour laws

MOSCOW, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Russia's parliament pressed on with President Vladimir Putin's economic reform programme on Friday, giving final approval to a labour law replacing Soviet era legislation, when the state was boss.

The new code adapts to post-Soviet economic reality in allowing private firms to hire and fire workers. It also seeks to boost job security, locking in workers' rights and penalising employers over delays in paying wages.

Deputies approved the labour code on Friday in the third and final reading by 289 votes to 131, with only a minimum of discussion. Putin had called for quick passage of the measure, replacing laws from the 1970s, as part of his efforts to overhaul the Russian economy.

The bill must now go before the Federation Council upper house, which has a track record of backing Putin's initiatives.

"We upheld all the main amendments to the labour code which has resolved problems of defending citizens' interests and boosting the role of trade unions," Vyacheslav Volodin of the centrist Fatherland-All Russia group told RTR state television.

"Look what issues have been settled here -- the length of the working day, overtime pay, defending the interests of young people, women."

The new code formally provides for a 40-hour working week, enshrines the right to paid leave after six months' employment instead of 11 months, and sets 28 days as the minimum holiday entitlement.

It also requires the minimum wage to be equal to a sum considered to be the poverty line.

That currently stands at the equivalent of $10 a month, well below any objective assessment of income needed to survive. But the means of calculating the sum remains under debate.

Ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian legislation does not yet recognise private employment, leaving 80 percent of the population outside the legal framework.

Russia's largest trade union grouping, the Federation of Independent Russian Trade Unions, supports the new code, but many other labour organisations do not.

Communist supporters had denounced the bill during months of discussion, saying it left workers at the mercy of employers, but there were no protesters in sight for Friday's debate.

The bill is part of a long list of reforms to be considered by parliament, including bills on liberalisation of land sales, and an overhaul of the pension and tax systems.

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