Source Pravda.Ru

Workers at Ford assembly plant in Russia go on strike

Nearly 1,400 workers at Ford's only car assembly plant in Russia held a one-day strike Wednesday to demand more money for dangerous work assignments and other benefits.

Alexei Etmanov, head of the labor union at the plant in Vsevolozhsk, near St. Petersburg, said the plant's production line had stopped at midnight, and would continue beyond the 24-hour period if the company did not meet their demands.

Among workers' demands was that the company stop using temporary workers, guarantee jobs for workers injured at the plant and extra pay and other benefits for harmful assignments, Etmanov said.

"If we don't have any normal dialogue with the authorities, we'll continue the strike for the near future," he said.

Ford officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Vsevolozhsk plant - Ford's only one in Russia - produced about 60,000 cars last year, mainly the Focus model. NTV said daily losses during the strike could reach US$4 million (EUR 3 million).

Foreign automakers have been eager to open assembly plants in Russia to reach the growing number of consumers in the country. Soaring world oil prices have boosted Russia's economy, lifting living standards and enabling more people to buy cars.

Consultants Ernst & Young estimated that the market grew by 14.4 percent last year to 1.84 million vehicles per year. Sales of new foreign cars rose 60 percent in 2005 to 563,400.

Several automakers have based operations in St. Petersburg, as Russia's former imperial capital has provided tax breaks and infrastructure and cast itself as a gateway for international trade, the AP reports.

General Motors Corp. broke ground in June on its first fully owned plant in Russia at a site outside of St. Petersburg, and Volkswagen AG signed an agreement in May with the Russian government to build a US$500 million (EUR 397 million) plant southwest of Moscow.

France's Renault SA, South Korea's Kia Motors Corp. and Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. all opened plants in Russia in 2005.