Naval yard workers on strike

Publish date: November 27, 1998

Written by: Thomas Nilsen

More than 9,000 employees at the Sevmorput naval yard in Murmansk held a one-day strike Wednesday, protesting that their wages are up to six months overdue. At the same time, submarine commanders are reviving the system of patronage to satisfy the basic needs of food for their submarine sailors.

Trade union leaders at Sevmorput naval yard said that if the back wages were not paid by the end of this year, the employees would go on open-ended strikes aimed at shutting down the naval repair yard, Itar-Tass reported. Today there are two laid-up nuclear powered submarines at Sevmorput, located only some few hundred metres from the nearest block of flats in Rosta, a northern suburb of Murmansk.

Patronage revived
With the bankrupt Russian government unable to provide food for its nuclear submarine crews, naval commanders are reviving the system of shefstvo, or patronage, to satisfy the basic needs of their submarine sailors. Several of the strategical nuclear submarines at the Northern Fleet’s naval base in Skalisty have this autumn received truckloads of vegetables from various cities in Southern Russia. The "hope" is that each operational strategical submarine will be adopted by a city, which then will provide the basic needs of food.

Visitors to Skalisty, from southern cities, have been shocked by the condition of the sailors’ barracks on shore and by the number of submarines rusting in their docks. The system of patronage might help the current food problems for the operational submarines, but there is hardly any city, which would want to adopt one of the more than 90 nuclear submarines taken out of service in the Northern fleet. Each of the laid-up submarines has a crew of 30 to 40 sailors, there to keep the vessel afloat while awaiting decommissioning, in addition to the shipyard workers.