Submarine Builders Go on Strike

Publish date: February 13, 1997

Written by: Igor Kudrik

Shipbuilders at Russia’s largest nuclear submarine yard, in the town of Severodvinsk, went on strike at the end of last week. They complain the government is months behind in salary payments. Several workers have not received wages for up to eight months, while about 12.000 umemployed former shipyard workers haven’t got any state benefits for more than a year. The strike is supported by most of the residents and the mayor of Severodvinsk.

Located west of Archangelsk, the closed town of Severodvinsk hosts the only shipyard constructing new nuclear submarines in Russia, in addition to three other yards. The chairman of the Russian Trade Union of Shipbuilding Workers, Vladimir Makavchik, told Interfax the shipbuilders no longer will work "for free."

–The government is still failing to pay for its own defence orders, Makavchik said. –The creators of state-of-the-art military equipment have not seen cash for many months, he added. Mayor Alexandr Belyayev said the government has been unable to pay 1 trillon rubles ($177 million) worth of government contracts, including shipyard works carried out in 1995. To Interfax he described the situation as "close to disastrous." On February 11 the city received 30 billion roubles. Another 30 billion are expected from Moscow soon, but this will cover only 10% of the debt. Currently the state owes each worker at the four Severodvinsk ship yards from 5 to 9 million roubles.

Besides demanding that overdue wages, pensions and benefits are cashed out, the strikers in Severodvinsk demand that the government be dismissed and Russia’s president step down for health reasons. Instead of wages, submarine builders have received bread every day, Itar-Tass reported. The pensioners haven’t recived benefits since November last year, and 15.000 public workers received their September salaries at the end of January. Severodvinsk mayor Belyayev said: "In these circumstances, people are capable of taking extreme measures."