Russian Navy contractors on hunger strike over unpaid wages

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Construction workers at the headquarters of the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet began a hunger strike Monday, demanding eight months of unpaid wages, the union said.

"Seven men and 13 women have begun a hunger strike. Wage arrears already amount to 65 million rubles (2.1 million dollars, 1.6 million euros)" among employees, trade union leader Natalia Dorovatovskaya told AFP.

Dorovatovskaya said conditions had become "catastrophic" in the construction arm of the Northern Fleet, which answers to the Russian Defence Ministry and employs some 132 people.

"Workers haven't been paid in eight months. They have been pushed to the brink," she said.

The strikers are threatening to block the highway to Severomorsk, where Russia's Northern Fleet is based some 25 kilometres (16 miles) from the port city of Murmansk, if they have not received wages by October 1.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally intervened in June 2009 when angry factory workers blocked a key highway in a dispute over wage arrears in the northern town of Pikalevo.

The Northern Fleet's construction arm was one of the foremost military branches in the Soviet era, tasked with developing Russia's ports and installations in the Arctic circle.

© 2010 AFP

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