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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Get Tough On Delayed Wages

Prosecutors are under orders to bring the maximum possible charges against executives who are delaying salary payments amid a sharp rise in labor law violations, a source in the Investigative Committee said.

The Prosecutor General's Office has been told to take a harder line on labor violations, including wage arrears. Prosecutors should threaten managers with the maximum possible punishments -- from fines and being banned from holding managerial posts to criminal charges, the source said.

The situation with wage arrears is not improving, and the Prosecutor General's Office is stepping up its efforts to investigate such claims, spokeswoman Marina Gridneva said. In March, wage arrears rose 8.3 percent to 8.75 billion rubles ($258 million), with about 500,000 people not receiving their full salaries, the State Statistics Service said.

According to figures from the prosecutor's office, in February two criminal cases were opened because of delayed wages; in March, five criminal cases were filed and eight directors were banned; in April, eight cases were filed, with two directors found guilty and six banned.

The Federal Labor and Employment Service said 34 executives were banned in the first quarter of 2009, and one was found guilty of criminal labor violations. In 2008, complaints over wage arrears led to 23 criminal cases, eight convictions and 149 disqualified mangers.

Prosecutors in the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district are looking into a major case, in which a court ordered that Sergei Stepanov, the former deputy general director of Severnaya Ekspeditsiya, be detained. He is suspected of not paying 70 million rubles in salaries because of pecuniary self-interest.

Investigators suspect that Stepanov, who was acting as general director and knew of the unpaid wages, paid more than 100 million rubles to suppliers.

Larisa Yeropkina, a spokeswoman for the Yamal-Nenets branch of the Investigative Committee, said Stepanov was the first corporate director arrested there for not paying wages.

Proceedings over wage arrears at the idling BasElCement Pikalevo factory have also gone to court. Prosecutors in Boksitogorsk on April 15 filed a suit against the plant's director, Anatoly Maslikov, who faces disqualification for 2009 arrears of about 17 million rubles.

Maslikov is trying to find the funds, but not everything is within his powers, said prosecutor Fyodor Piryatinsky, adding that the arrears were more the problem of BasElCement shareholders.

Piryatinsky said all available cash at the business was going toward salaries and that criminal charges have not been filed against Maslikov so far.

A BasElCement Pikalevo spokeswoman said staff were paid 37 percent of their March salaries and that there was no debt for February.

The punishment for executives depends on the length of delays, said Dmitry Kofanov, a lawyer at NS Consulting. If the arrears are for more than a month, executives can be banned from working for up to three years; if it is more than two months, they face a ban of up to five years or jail time.