Workers Supply, Department of

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Workers’ Supply, Department of


(Otdel rabochego snabzheniia; ORS), a state retail trade organization or enterprise that operates with the status of either a production enterprise or an agency of an economic administration. Unlike other state trade organizations, the ORS’s provide goods and services to the production workers and clerical and professional employees in a number of sectors of industry, including construction and transportation, where local conditions for the organization of production (remoteness of location, separation of production shops and sections from each other, unusual working conditions) and the absence of a developed trade network belonging to the system run by the Ministry of Trade make a special system of workers’ supply a necessity. Because of their specialized function, ORS’s are organized as a department within the production enterprise that they serve and are headed by a deputy enterprise director for workers’ supply.

At the ministerial level, the ORS is directed by workers’ supply boards and central workers’ supply boards organized within the ministries. ORS activities are also monitored and regulated by the Ministry of Trade of the USSR, by the ministries of trade of the union republics, and by the local soviets of working people’s deputies and their trade agencies. Drawing extensively on local resources that include the products of specially orgnized subsidiary enterprises and workshops, ORS’s provide their clients with consumer goods obtained both from centralized stocks and decentralized purchases.

The first ORS’s in the USSR were set up in accordance with the decree issued on Dec. 4, 1932, by the party Central Committee and the Council of People’s Commisars of the USSR and called On Expansion of the Rights of Plant Administrations Concerning Workers’ Supply and Improvement in the Rationing System. The earliest ORS’s were established at 262 large industrial enterprises of the people’s commissariats for heavy industry, light industry, and the timber industry. ORS’s were organized as successors to limited workers’ cooperatives and to consumers’ cooperatives. In subsequent years the system of ORS’s developed rapidly. By the beginning of 1935 there were more than 3,000 ORS’s in the country, serving 20.7 million production workers and clerical and professional employees and their families. During this period the ORS’s accounted for one-fifth of the total volume of goods handled by the Soviet state and cooperative retail trade systems.

The ORS system developed significantly during the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45. By the end of the war, the country had 7,600 ORS’s, which serviced almost half of all persons who received goods through the centralized system of supply. During the war the ORS’s did a great deal to facilitate the well-organized, timely distribution of goods to the production workers and clerical and professional employees in sectors of the national economy that were important for defense. To achieve this supply objective, the ORS’s developed an extensive network of subsidiary enterprises, primarily agricultural, which delivered more than 3 million tons of potatoes, almost 5 million tons of vegetables, more than 150,000 tons of meat, and significant quantities of milk, eggs, and other products during the war years.

In the postwar years, with the development of the network of stores in the Ministry of Trade system, the ORS’s have again concentrated their efforts primarily on service to working people employed in sectors with special conditions of production organization. These sectors include transportation, branches of the extractive and power engineering industries, construction and building materials, ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, the timber and wood-products industry, land reclamation, and water use management. When there are developed networks of local trade enterprises in regions where the ORS’s operate, the functions of the latter are limited to running catering services and, where necessary, carrying out everyday repairs and other services, right at the enterprises. In the early 1970’s the ORS’s accounted for 21 percent of commodity turnover in state-controlled trade in the USSR.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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