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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Air-traffic controllers may strike in November

Russian air-traffic controllers are threatening to strike again in mid-November unless the government raises their salaries.


The threat follows a series of retaliatory steps by the Russian government after the union's Aug. 15 strike, which shut down 40 of the nation's airports.


The actions -- including a raid of the union's offices earlier this month -- came despite an alleged promise by Vice President Alexander Rutskoi not to prosecute strikers or retaliate in any way, said Vladimir Konusenko, president of the Federation of Russian Air-Traffic Controller's Trade Unions.


But since then, the government has launched prosecutions against some 3, 500 strikers for "sabotaging the airways", Konusenko said.


If convicted, the strikers face up to four years in prison, he added.


On September 16, the Interior Ministry raided the union's headquarters, seizing labor agreements and other documents, Konusenko said.


He added that the officials requested some union leaders to meet with them a few days later, but that they refused because the requests were not sent through proper channels.


In other actions, two strike leaders were fired, three others were transferred to different jobs, and at least 15 more have faced "official reprieves" and harassment at work, Konusenko said.


Oleg Trufanov, head of the Transport Ministry's department of air transport, said that the government "will not give in" to the union's demands.


In August, the Russian prosecutor did not declare the first strike illegal until the eve of the walkout. But now, warned Trufanov, if the union chooses to strike, its actions will be deemed to be breaking the law from the beginning.


These hardline tactics are a dramatic change from last spring, when the government conceded to demands of nationwide striking health care, education, and transportation workers.


The change also reflects the shift in President Boris Yeltsin's cabinet, in which many radical reformers have been replaced by conservative ministers.


The air-traffic controllers want their base salaries to increase from 7, 000 to 15, 000 rubles a month, in accordance with a government-agreement to increase salaries in relation to the national minimum wage, which was raised in June.