A wave of workers’ protests and riots over unpaid wages and working conditions has swept Russia during the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 300 workers rioted at the Gazprom gas works by the Amur River, near the Russian Chinese border, at the beginning of July. They ransacked the offices of subcontractor Renaissance Heavy Industries, which had not paid them wages in three months.
Riots cops were brought in to disperse the crowd—and the state is pursuing criminal charges against the workers.
But the Readovka newspaper has obtained a document called “the company’s appeal to employees”, showing concessions from bosses. They promised payment of unpaid wages and a 5 percent increase in the hourly rate.
On the same day caretakers in Moscow gathered outside the offices of Zhilischnik (Dweller), which manages municipal housing. The workers in the Levoberezhny district, migrants from central Asian republics, say their wages are a third below those of caretakers in other districts.
The following day, 14 July, migrant workers in Moscow’s Severnoye Chertanovo district staged a mass brawl. Unpaid wages was the most likely reason.
A few days later on 17 July workers at Sheremetevo Airport in Moscow protested to demand overtime payments.
On the same day 500 building workers at Saint Petersburg’s Lachta Centre—an 87-story skyscraper—struck over back pay. A large number of workers from central Asia were active, another indication of migrants’ importance in defending workers’ rights in Russia.
Earlier in the month council workers in Ufa’s street cleaning and repair department walked out. Workers in the southern Russian city are angry at wage cuts and bosses’ broken promises while they have had to keep working during the pandemic.
On July 6 dayshift workers refused to sweep, scrub, hose down, repair, and disinfect the streets of the virus—and then nightshift workers supported them.
The following day officials announced an investigation into workers’ complaints.
Meanwhile, workers at the Delivery Club online food delivery company struck in three cities in western Russia. Members of the Courier union in Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Novosibirsk are fighting over unpaid wages, unfounded fines by bosses, and contracts.
Around 300 couriers protested at the Delivery Club’s central offices on 9 July.
The action forced bosses to drop the fines, amounting to around nine million rubles, but workers are still fighting over unpaid wages.
The struggles of Russian workers show how, in times of crisis and slump, the capitalists try protect their protect their profits at workers' expense. But they also show that workers are ready to fight for their rights by any means available, from spontaneous walkouts to strikes and riots.
Economic demands give rise to political demands, ones that will unite workers in all industries and regions of Russia and the world.
Some day the target will no longer be a specific employer but the political elite, the state, and the world economic order. By acting together and showing solidarity, we can change not only our own situation, but the world’s.