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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

AvtoVAZ Workers Protest Slowdown

APAvtoVAZ workers protesting cuts in working hours Thursday in Tolyatti.

About 2,000 AvtoVAZ workers rallied in Tolyatti on Thursday to protest a massive cut in work hours and demand that the factory be nationalized.

The demonstration, organized by Yedinstvo, the automaker’s independent labor union, also demanded that the Audit Chamber investigate an alleged misappropriation of funds by the management.

The protest, which comes amid worries that AvtoVAZ may lay off up to one-fourth of its work force, drew an estimated turnout of 1,000 to 3,000 people, a small proportion of the factory’s 100,000-person work force.

AvtoVAZ, owned by state corporation Russian Technologies and French automaker Renault, has stopped production for a month starting this week, paying workers two-thirds of their salaries. Starting in September, the plant will switch to a 20-hour workweek, bringing workers’ salaries down 50 percent.

Tolyatti auto portal posted photos of protesters holding up signs saying “Give managers a worker’s salary!” “Nationalize!” “Give AvtoVAZ real help!” and “Thieves should go to prison (Artyakov and Alyoshin).”

Vladim Blagodarny / AP
AvtoVAZ workers protesting reductions in working hours and salary cuts in Tolyatti on Thursday. About 2,000 workers called on the state to nationalize the country’s biggest automaker and carried around signs saying “Give managers a worker’s salary!” and “Give AvtoVAZ real help!” 

Samara region Governor Vladimir Artyakov was the head of AvtoVAZ from 2006 to 2007 before receiving his governorship. Boris Alyoshin, the company’s current president, cut the plant’s work hours in September before leaving on vacation.

Following the protest, Samara region Industry Minister Vladislav Kapustin said demand for AvtoVAZ cars would soon start to grow and defended the management’s policies.

“The management team, which has faced criticism today, has so far been solving the biggest problem of keeping jobs,” Kapustin said.

Russian Technologies head Sergei Chemezov, speaking in Ankara, Turkey, where he was on a trip with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, pointed to more sinister forces behind the protests, suggesting that they may have been staged by former management of the firm.

“There are people that are unhappy that we came to AvtoVAZ,” Chemezov said. “They were removed at one point, and now they want to return.” Rosoboronexport took control of the company in 2005, before the assets were consolidated into Russian Technologies.

AvtoVAZ vice president Stanislav Naumov met with regional administration officials Wednesday evening in Tolyatti, where they discussed a plan to compensate AvtoVAZ workers for shorter hours. The regional government said it hopes to employ 22,000 AvtoVAZ workers in temporary public works programs.