Strike at Russian Ford plant

Ford workers in St. Petersburg vote for strike action

A strike halted production on Wednesday at U.S. car maker Ford's plant near St Petersburg, one of the biggest in Russia owned by a foreign auto maker, after a months-long dispute over pay and conditions.

"The strike took place overnight, the night shift did not assemble any cars," said Yekaterina Kulinenko, Ford Russia spokeswoman. "Most of the day shift is also on strike. We are not making cars at the moment."

Trade unions want management to sign a labor agreement that clearly defines terms for salary rises, holidays and social benefits. Ford says it has a court ruling declaring the strike illegal but is ready to continue wage talks.

Union leader Alexei Etmanov said the strike would continue as long as Ford does not improve its offer of a 14-20 percent pay rise.

"We'll play it by ear - it could be a one-day warning strike, and it could be indefinite," Etmanov told Reuters.

Assembly line workers typically earn 13,000-19,000 roubles ($490-$720) per month, which is above the national average wage in Russia. Annual inflation was 9 percent last year.

The plant, which is near Russia's second-largest city of St Petersburg, produced 60,000 cars last year - mainly the Focus model - and had planned to increase output this year to 75,000 cars.

The strike comes at a time of booming sales for foreign car makers in Russia. Ford is among the most successful, with total sales of 116,000 locally-produced and imported vehicles in Russia last year.

The strike marks a rare stirring of industrial unrest in Russia, as labor unions seek a greater share of the profits of eight years of fast economic growth in a rapidly tightening job market.

The employees have twice declared a "go-slow" in past years to demand pay rises, with production reduced by 25-30 percent as a result. The St Petersburg works typically produces around 300 cars a day.

Kulinenko said Ford would import 2,300 Focus cars at the beginning of March to compensate for potential production losses from the strike.

Posted By

Ed
Feb 19 2007 19:52

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