The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Russia:
Ford workers near St. Peterburg, “Our vote is a strike”

Dec 17, 2007

On the eve of the Russian parliamentary elections in early December, one of the popular Russian newspapers, Komsomolskaya Pravda, had a headline, “Has a new Russian strike wave begun with Ford?”

The strike was for wage increases, but also against management’s imposition of discipline. There had been a one day strike at the plant in February that won 14 to 20% wage increases and more holidays. For the last few months, when people talked about social struggles, first of all they spoke about the Ford workers, even if the media didn’t give them much coverage.

Contrary to the lies of the Russian press, the Ford Vsevolozhsk workers employed in this “modern” factory, don’t get “modern” wages. Average wages are about $860 a month. Management’s promise to raise the average wage by $50 in 2008 didn’t make the strikers back down. The strike, which began with 300 workers, spread to 700 who were demanding a “Western” wage of $1,500 a month, from a factory that bragged it respected “Western” standards.

At the Ford gates, in response to accusations from some of the media and the government, the strikers carried signs proclaiming, “Our choice is for the strike,” a play on the words “choice” and “vote” in Russian, which mean the same thing. Also, “Going on strike isn’t extremism” – an accusation made by government officials against anyone who stirs things up – “it’s exercising our rights!”

In any case, right now other workers are using their rights. The St Petersburg postal workers are preparing for a strike. Workers of GOuP TEK in the energy sector are on strike. On November 28, the railroad workers announced they would have a national strike, while workers on the St Petersburg docks, the main port of the country, were on strike for the second week.

At the time we write, the union leader of the Ford workers at the Vsevolozhsk plant claimed the four-week strike was over, since the company agreed to the workers’ demands. Management also said the strike was over, but it denied there was any agreement. The Ford workers have yet to be heard from.