Russian parliament threatened with a strike over salary slash

Russian lawmakers are having a bit of trouble getting to work on Thursday morning, as their drivers threaten industrial action.

The drivers say their salaries are due to be cut three times in the next few months, and they want to sort the matter out with management.

About 60 people gathered today at the headquarters of the GEMA driving company that, apart from being a big car dealer, provides chauffeur services to the Russian State Duma, the Federal Council and other legislative and government bodies.

Apart from the fact that the drivers do not want this salary threefold slash from the beginning of 2010, they are not happy with their working conditions. They are unhappy with shifts that last 14-15 hours a day, and having to wait for a carwash every morning for up to three hours. They do not have any facilities in which to have a rest after a long working shift either.

But of course the main argument is that they insist that on Wednesday they were forced to sign an individual document for each driver which states that they would agree to work the same shifts they have now, but receive a salary which is one third of the existing one, which would be around $400 a month.

The GEMA company bosses did not appear at the gathering on Thursday morning. Nor did they say anything concrete yesterday to the drivers’ representative Anatoly Drakon, who talked to the bosses and laid down all the demands. The answer was that the drivers’ demands will be considered within two months.

After the gathering, all the drivers returned to work to get the deputies to the Duma by 10am, and they actually publicly apologized for any kind of disruptions that could happen, because they know the price of five minutes in Moscow – with its insane traffic – like nobody else.

Apparently, all the rumors that they would be blocking roads and refusing to work unless their demands are heard have nothing to do with the reality. The drivers are really happy with the publicity and the media attention they have received.

The State Duma administration told Interfax news agency it sees no reason for a strike because it has always been transferring payment for the deputies’ personal vehicles in time and in full.

The management of SchetSpetzTrans, a subdivision of the GEMA Company that does the outsourcing service of the Russian State Duma with vehicles, says the conflict is a result of a “common misunderstanding of the document”. The company says it has no plans to slash drivers’ salaries. They simply issued new contracts in accordance with the labor registration, in which the salaries are divided into fixed and bonus parts. Because the drivers’ employment is traditionally connected with overtime hours, their salaries would not be diminished.