Strike Hits Embattled Russian Car Manufacturer

Unions want pay raise.

Hundreds of workers at Russia's largest car plant went on strike on August 1, trade union officials said, as the embattled producer of the Lada model continues to lose out to foreign brands. Pyotr Zolotaryov, the main organizer of the strike, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying that the wage strike had been called off for the day and was "a warning" to management.

The Yedinstvo trade union, which has 1,500 members, demands that the average wage at the state-controlled factory be raised to 25,000 rubles (US$977) per month from around the current pay of 15,000 rubles.

An Avtovaz spokesman was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that the main production line had not been affected by the strike and that only "several dozen" workers had taken part.

Industrial action in Russia was common in the early 1990s but is now a rare occurrence, mainly because the main trade unions are often allied to factory management or to state authorities. The striking workers were acting "against policies of nationalization" and against "deception" from the ruling United Russia party, which has promised increased salaries for factory workers.

The Avtovaz factory, which employs around 108,000 people and makes Lada cars, was privatized after the fall of the Soviet Union and then taken over by state arms monopoly Rosoboronexport in 2005. Avtovaz once dominated the Soviet auto industry and continues to be Russia's largest producer and biggest car factory but the company has lost out in recent years to increasingly popular foreign brands.

The Vedomosti daily cited car industry data projections showing that Japanese carmaker Toyota could sell vehicles worth a total of $5.45 billion in 2007 against $4.68 billion for Avtovaz.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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