Workers Vote on Ford Offer

Workers at Ford's car plant near St. Petersburg started voting Friday on a pay offer of about 20 percent that the company said it hoped would settle a dispute that flared into a three-week strike in November.

The offer, made Wednesday, includes a wage increase of 16 percent to 21 percent for the plant's workers and a reduction in night-shift hours.

Alexei Etmanov, leader of the plant's 1,500-member union, said Friday that it was premature to gauge workers' reaction to the offer. "If the conditions are accepted, our union will not organize an industrial action at the plant in the foreseeable future," Etmanov said.

Voting began noon Friday and would continue through Monday to allow all the workers to take part, Etmanov said.

Ford's offer, the basis for a proposed collective-bargaining agreement with staff for this year, includes hikes in wages from 16 percent to 21 percent, depending on the length of employees' service and qualifications.

The offer would also raise new workers' starting salaries to 19,000 rubles per month ($780).

Long-serving employees would be entitled to a "service award" of 5,000 to 10,000 rubles, the company said in a statement. Other concessions include a bigger discount for workers buying Ford Focus cars from the plant and the introduction of overtime payments.

The strike, which lasted three weeks from Nov. 20, was in support of a claim for a 30 percent wage increase.