Russian workers protest over unpaid wages
Russian aviation workers demonstrated against unpaid wages, in a protest timed to coincide with a visit by PM Putin.
Russian aviation workers demonstrated against unpaid wages on Tuesday, in a protest timed to coincide with a visit by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.demonstrated against unpaid wages on Tuesday, in a protest timed to coincide with a visit by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"Where is our money?" asked a banner held up by aviation technician Sergei Zhigun, who was last paid seven months ago.
The protesters had worked for defunct aviation company KD Avia, which was based in Kaliningrad and serviced routes to both European and Russian cities.
Russia's economy has been hard hit by the financial crisis, but officials have tried to stave off massive layoffs to avoid protests. Demonstrations are not normally timed to coincide with visits by Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev.
In pouring rain, waving red flags and chanting "wages, wages", the roughly 200 demonstrators gathered in central Kaliningrad beside a World War Two memorial.
The enclave, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, is Russia's most westerly region and the most convenient way to get to the rest of the country is to fly.
The collapse of the company earlier this year led to thousands of people being stranded in airports.
Putin, who posed for a group photo with road builders and chaired a meeting with officials on regional development issues, did not plan to meet the protesters, his press service said.
In June, Putin travelled to the town of Pikalyovo, around 270 km (170 miles) from St Petersburg, and forced billionaire Oleg Deripaska to restart operations at several of his factories following protests from unpaid workers.
"KD Avia is another Pikalyovo," read one of the banners.
Transport Minister Igor Levitin said airlines Transaero and Aeroflot had taken over routes serviced by KD Avia but there were no buyers for the company's business in Kaliningrad.
"No-one will be able to do it during the crisis," Levitin said, citing a 15 percent fall in passenger traffic in the first nine months of 2009.
KD Avia has filed for bankruptcy, owing 480 million roubles ($16.59 million) in unpaid wages, and is under external management.
The company, whose main shareholder is its main creditor Bank St.Petersburg, employs 2,300 people. It has debts of about 11-12 billion roubles.
Alexander Ralbinov, Kaliningrad region's development minister, said the region proposed a change to the federal budget law that will enable local authorities to take over the company's backlog wages. Protests over job layoffs and unpaid wages have been held in other Russian cities, with some of the largest in Togliatti, the home of the Lada car, where makers Avtovaz warns it has no work for thousands of staff.
Reuters Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Ekim 2009, 02:50