12/11/07

Birth of union activity in post-Soviet Russia

Workers at a Ford factory near St. Petersburg have defied a ban and resumed picketing, the plant's trade union chief said on Tuesday. "We have agreed on a picket. Today a total of 300 people came to the plant [to picket]," Alexei Etmanov said.

Local authorities banned picketing at the plant on Monday. The trade union and management are set to hold more talks on Tuesday in a bid to reach a solution to the three-week strike.

Some 1,000 workers at the factory halted production on November 20, demanding a 30% pay rise. Average wages at the U.S. auto giant's sole Russian plant are about 21,000 rubles ($860) a month.

Although production has been partially resumed at the sole Ford factory in Russia, the plant is still failing to reach target output levels. On Monday, the factory produced only 73 of the 300 cars requested by management.

Around 750 workers are presently on strike. The factory employs some 2,000 people. The ongoing Ford strike has been heralded by many Russian social observers as the birth of organized union activity in post-Soviet Russia.

Unions in the U.S.S.R were mainly concerned with productivity, morale and the organization of workers' annual holidays. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the role of trade unions in society became somewhat vague, and the Ford pickets represent the strongest union action in Russia for many years.

Boris Kravchenko, president of the All-Russian Confederation of Labor, has said the workers are not civic heroes, but simply "fighting to improve their work conditions."

(en.rian.ru)

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