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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Scores of Teachers on Strike

Thousands of teachers went on strike in two regions this week to demand payment of millions of dollars in back wages.

Some 17,000 teachers from more than 800 schools and kindergartens in the Volga region of Kirov are participating in the five-day strike, which ends Friday. Scores of teachers in the eastern Siberian region of Irkutsk went on strike Wednesday and say they won't return to their classrooms until they are paid.

Wage arrears in Kirov stretch back to November and December in some parts of the region and totaled 180 million rubles ($5.65 million) as of Feb. 1, Interfax reported Thursday.

The regional administration could not be reached for comment. But the teachers said they were told that the arrival of funds from the federal budget for part of their salaries had been delayed.

"We were told that wire transfers are expected from Moscow, but we do not know how big they are and when they will arrive," said Aleftina Shilnikova, a teacher of Russian and literature at Kirov School No. 60. "We have suspended our work without violating the Labor Code: We go to work as usual but do not hold classes," she said.

She said Kirov has not had a widespread strike since 1998, when most of the region's teachers took part in a monthlong strike, even though salaries are almost never paid on time.

Lyudmila Kovalenko, chairman of Kirov's teachers union, said emotions were running high after thousands of teachers were left without money for the New Year's holidays. But the final straw was when teachers were not paid at the end of January, she said. "Our teachers could not afford to buy candy for their own children for New Year's," she said.

The average monthly salary for a teacher in Kirov is 1,500 rubles ($47). Kovalenko said teachers were considering what to do if their demands are not met.

Meanwhile, in the Irkutsk town Taishet, 149 teachers from five schools went on strike Wednesday after not receiving their December and January salaries. They said they will not return to work until they get paid.