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1 Apr, 2008 07:00

96 miners in underground pay protest

Ninety six striking miners remain underground at an aluminium ore mine in the Russian Urals. Three workers came to the surface during the weekend after falling ill. The miners are demanding a 50% pay rise and the abolition of weekend work.

The company's management refuses to raise salaries and has closed all of its mines. The measure has triggered rallies, with thousands of miners joining the strike above ground.

“It hurts me to see my husband, my brothers and my father ruining their health working their lives away, and what for?” Nadezhda Lebedeva, a striker's wife, said.

Thousands more support Nadezhda’s words. Mines in this region are largely considered unsafe, accidents are common, and workers' pay is low.

But mining has been the local trade for generations, and since Soviet times, striking has been the way to get heard.

Aleksandr Sergeev, the Chairman of the Russian Independent Union of Miners, says the strikers aren't going to compromise.

“We all had the assurances from the top authorities that there will be no legal action against them and the talks will begin as soon as they come back to the surface. The group of the miners refused our proposals. They demanded a 50% increase in salary and said that only then they will start the talks,” he said.