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Friday, May 30, 2008

EDITORIAL: The Wages of Slaves


The Wages of Slaves

At the current dollar-ruble exchange rate of 23.5:1, 7,000 rubles amounts to $297.87.

That's the average monthly wage of a petrochemical worker in Russia's Sverdlovsk region, just west of the Urals on the border of Siberia. The major metropolis of Yekaterinburg is located there.

For four 40-hour work weeks, that translates into a shocking average hourly wage of only $1.86. So much for the notion of economic recovery in Vladimir Putin's Russia. These are the real wages earned by the vast majority of real Russians across the country, offset by a tiny clan of super rich who exploit the unwashed masses as has always been the case in Russia.

But little enough, you might think, so that managers at such a plant would consider their workforce cheap at twice the price, and be rolling in profits. Yet if that were so, why would workers at the Lobinsky plant have declared a hunger strike in protest of wages that are four months overdue?

It's an important question, because that's just what they're doing. Other Russia reports:
18 employees of the factory have refused to eat since April 28th, in an attempt to convince management to dole out back pay to over 500 factory workers, according to the Agency of Political News. Of the 18 employees who started the hunger strike, six have been hospitalized, and four were forced to stop when the act exacerbated chronic illnesses they have. The plant’s management did not respond to the protest until the hunger strike was underway for 12 days. Workers received a “letter of guarantee” that they would be paid by June 10th. The striking employees, however, said they had never heard of the directors who signed the letter, and said the document held little authority. They then continued their protest. The Lobinsky protest is the third labor dispute in the the Sverdlovsk oblast in recent months, according to Itar-Tass (RUS). Thus, 107 miners working for Sevuralboksitrud (a part of the mammoth RUSAL aluminum company) went on strike from March 26th to April 4th, demanding a raise in wages. And from April 13th to 19th, 66 workers of the same mine announced a hunger strike with similar demands.
Speaking of hunger strikes, dissident opposition leader Oleg Kozlovsky has just finished one. According to his Washington Post column last week, Kozlovsky sees the Kremlin has having imposed "the stability of the Gulag" on Russia. His blog carries a photograph of Kozlovsky just after his release, showing the effects of his self-imposed malnutrition.

So, despite the absurd propaganda being churned out by the Kremlin, Russia is rather far from being a resurgent dynamo on its way to paradise. To the contrary, Russians are starving themselves in the vain hope of clemency from the malignant trolls who prowl the Kremlin's parapets, begging for legal and economic justice and laying their lives on the line to do it. Meanwhile, as has always been the case in Russia, a tiny clan of oligarchs hoards the nation's wealth for their own obscene and secret purposes.

RIA Novosti recently reported that "the minimum wage in the capital is to come to 10, 900 rubles by the end of 2010. Currently the minimum wage in the city is 6,800 rubles. After September 1, it will be 7,500 rubles. Additionally, pensions in the capital are to exceed the cost of living by the end of 2009, Igor Antonov, the chairman of the budget and finance committee of Moscow State Duma, said."

Moscow is the world's most expensive city, and its minimum wage is a shocking $290 per month or $1.80 per hour. If Moscowites are lucky, by 2010 that my rise to $465 per month or $2.90 per hour -- of course, with Russian prices rising at double-digit annual rates, that may well be worth much less then than $290 is worth today.

Russians are besieged from every side in Vladimir Putin's Russia. Below we report on a new term, "hypermortality," being coined to describe Russia's skyrocketing rate of population loss, something that is obviously connected to the ill-health that results from such an insanely low, slave-like wage scale.

And Russians have nobody to blame but themselves for this apocalypse. They themselves chose to be governed by a proud KGB spy, or did nothing to oppose his rise to power. Now, they will take the consequences.


talnik said...

Trouble is, they've been putting up with this crap in one form or another for the past 800 years.

Anonymous said...

"For four 40-hour work weeks, that translates into a shocking average hourly wage of only $1.86. So much for the notion of economic recovery in Vladimir Putin's Russia."

Phoby, Phoby, Phoby. Its a recovery when the wage is paid, unlike it was under Yeltsin:

"As it is, many public sector workers-teachers, for instance, who are supposed to get a princely $20 a month-have not been paid for a whole year."

The Economist, February 6-12 1999, pg 17.

So, yes, when wages are paid, it is an improvement over when they are not.

La Russophobe said...


Are you illiterate? These wages ARE unpaid, imbecile. The workers are STAGING A HUNGER STRIKE.

Moreover, the point isn't to compare Putin to Yeltsin, that's a topic for another day. The point is THAT RUSSIA IS A VERY POOR COUNTRY suffering mightily, not a "booming" success story.

Try to at least read our post before you comment on them, can't you?