Oleg Volin: How Capitalism Kills in Nizhny Tagil

уралвагонFront entrance of the famous Uralvagonzavod Factory in Nizhny Tagil. Courtesy of Vasily Shaposhnikov and Kommersant

Oleg Volin
Facebook
February 20, 2019

Capitalism kills. Overwork, wage cuts, nasty managers, and the lack of a clear future drive workers to kill themselves.

On the morning of February 19, 2019, in Nizhny Tagil, Sergei Chernykh, a young worker, left his boss’s office, put a noose around his neck, and jumped off a raised area, damaging his spine and suffocating in mere seconds. Arriving on the scene, an ambulance crew (who, to top it all off, were not immediately let into the factory) were powerless to save his life.

The situation in Nizhny Tagil is not merely rough but bloody. Chernykh’s suicide was the fifth suicide in the past year by a worker at the Uralvagonzavod plant.

There have been several dozen similar incidents, but Chernykh’s death stands out from them in that he committed suicide at his workplace.

Chernykh could not bear life’s hardships and so he parted with it right on the spot. Whether he meant it or not, he thus focused the public’s attention on the outrageous working conditions endured by Uralvagonzavod workers.

The plant’s press service has not yet commented on the case, but it is obvious the increasing incidents of suicide have been caused by deterioration of socio-economic conditions and the lack of prospects.

Over the last twenty-eight years, Nizhny Tagil’s population has steadily declined, dropping from 440,000 residents to 350,000 residents. It would be strange not to see this as a telltale sign of what has been happening in the city.

Chernykh’s friends and acquaintances mainly say he was “driven” to kill himself. Many residents of Nizhny Tagil could find themselves in similar circumstances, especially if they work at Uralvagonzavod.

A female worker in Forging Shop No. 170, where Chernykh was employed, said the 27-year-old man’s suicide occurred after he attended a meeting of plant managers that he was not supposed to have attended. The employee asked she not be named since, she claimed, everyone in the shop was afraid, everyone needed a job, and she did not want any extra problems.

“Sergei was a rank-and-file worker, a cutter, but since our section foreman and section manager were on sick leave, Sergei was temporarily appointed foreman. And since there was no manager in our section, Sergei was sent to that meeting,” the woman claims. “It’s at these morning meetings that the shop foreman tells everyone what section has to do what and how much they have to do during a shift.”

“There are emergencies, and the shop foreman forces people to hurry up. He could not care less whether are enough workers to do the job or not, whether they have the tools they need or not. All that matters is that the work be done quickly. If you don’t have any workers, you go do the job yourself,” she says.

Marina Pogrebnykh, a distant relative of Chernykh’s, does not know the particulars of his death, but she likewise has no doubt plant management was to blame.

“I’m certain management are to blame for it. I don’t believe he would just take his own life like that, especially since this was not the first such incident,” says Pogrebnykh.

The anonymous female worker at Uralvagonzavod confirmed Chernykh was the third plant employee to have killed himself in the past three months. On the social networks, there has been talk there may have been more such incidents.

“We are under extreme pressure at work. You can make good wages, but you have to live on the shop floor to make the good money.

“Our section foreman killed himself. Yes, of course, it was a personal situation, but I can say that if he hadn’t drunk he would be alive. But when he was foreman in another shop he never drank, although the workload was huge. So, it’s a little hard to believe in coincidences.

“Our current section foreman, a woman, quite often comes back from meetings with management completely stressed out. She’s already getting up there in terms of age, but they yell at her like they yell at everyone else,” says the late Chernykh’s female coworker.

Two weeks ago, twenty-five Uralvagonzavod workers filed suit against their employer over new rules for calculating wages. According to the workers, the new rules have cut their pay in half while their workload has increased. Although these rules came into force in 2018, the workers have only now decided to file suit.

“Management tells us the the plant has been modernized. Due to this modernization, our workload has decreased, allegedly, meaning we should produce more. It’s on paper that things look good to them. On the contrary, we haven’t noticed any changes,” say the workers by way of explaining why they have sued olant management.

“On the contrary, we now have additional functions, but our wages have been halved.  This happened despite the fact that previously we had one of the highest pay grades at the plant due to occupational hazards and the heavy physical workload,” they say.

Nizhny Tagil’s Dzerzhinsky District Court has not yet made a ruling in the case.

Founded in 1936, Uralvagonzavod manufactures military equipment, railroad cars, and road construction equipment. In 2016, the company was merged with the Russian state corporation Rostec.

Poverty and overwork have led workers to hang themselves. It is all quite sad. Workers must realize they need to fight together to improve their condition. They must organize themselves, go on strike, and take other actions.

The nooses should be reserved for other heads.

This text is based on media reports.

Thanks to Tom Rowley for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

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Emerald City

Female Workers at Urals Emerald Plant Complain of Abuse during Strip Searches
URA.Ru
December 5, 2016

The Malyshevskoye is the only unique emerald deposit in Russia. Photo courtesy of pinterest.com
The Malyshevskoye Field is the only emerald deposit in Russia. Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

Employees of a well-known emerald extraction enterprise in Sverdlovsk Region believe they have been abused during strip searches. The women are forced to freeze while standing on a concrete floor and answer intimate questions, and in the future they have been threatened with searches in gynecological exam chairs.

Employees at the Malyshevskoye Field Emerald Extraction Plant, a separate division of Kaliningrad Amber Factory JSC, have complained of outrages on the part of security guards. Having failed to get justice from various authorities, the workforce has turned to journalists for help.

“We are prohibited from being in the toilet for more than ten minutes. When we ‘violate the rules,’ the security guards demand explanations for things about which we are sometimes ashamed and embarrassed to talk, given that we are women, and anything can happen,” female plant employees told URA.Ru.

For obvious reasons, they were afraid to give their names.

“We get the impression that the security guards, who are mostly men, are really interested in the juicy details,” they said.

However, the female employees consider so-called selective strip searches the most agonizing procedure, despite the fact they are conducted by female security guards. Female employees can be subjected to the procedure repeatedly over a single shift.

“Without giving any reason, the guards can remove any of us from our workplace and take us away for a strip search,” the women continued. “They happen in a shabby room with a concrete floor and a broken window that opens onto a room where male security guards are on duty. The guards force the women to strip naked and pat down their clothes for a long time without wearing gloves. The whole time we arestanding barefoot on a rag on the icy floor. The temperature in the room cannot be higher than fifteen degrees Celsius. Any questions and objections on our part are met with blatant rudeness. They say straight to our faces, “Shut up! You’re all potential thieves and recidivists, and an emerald buyer is waiting for each of you outside the plant.’ The guards make dirty hints about where we might hide the stones. They have promised that, from the new year, we will be examined daily in a gynecological chair. Allegedly, the chair has been ordered. After this humiliating procedure, one of the gals felt sick and had to be taken away in an ambulance.”

Female employees complain that during the searches they freeze in the cold office. Photo courtesy of URA.Ru readers
Female employees complain that during the searches they freeze in the cold office. Photo courtesy of URA.Ru readers

The harassment has mainly affected mineworkers on the picking belt, where only women are employed. The guards behave respectfully towards the male mineworkers, although they too are subjected to frequent strip searches and blatant remarks about where they might be hiding emeralds. This happens despite the fact that all employees at the plant work under the watchful eye of numerous surveillance cameras and security guards, and wear special uniforms whose pockets have been sewn shut.

“Not all the guards are like this. There are also guards who are tactful and treat us politely,” the women continued. “But then there are those who come to work with one thing in mind: to choose a victim and bully her all day. The security company [that provides the guards] is supervised by the plant’s security department. They give the orders to the guards. Their attitude towards us is like that of the Gestapo.”

According to employees, the bullying and humiliation at the emerald field started late last year, when a new director, Yevgeny Vasilyevsky, took over. It was Vasilyevsky who established the security department, which signed a contract with the security firm Rostec Protection. Over the following year, the plant stopped providing workers with gloves and soap, but surveillance was beefed up. The mineworkers were subjected to strip searches for scratching their nose or adjusting their kerchiefs. Curiously, for no apparent reason, the security personnel themselves sometimes approach the conveyor belt on which the emeralds are washed. The female workers managed to capture one such incident on video.

“We have conducted strip searches since 2006, and it goes without saying that everything has been approved by various official organizations,” explained Sergei Babushkin, head of custodial services and economic security at the plant. “The strip search is the same for everyone. Even the plant director goes through it after he has been down in the mineshaft, and no one has complained except for one shift. Three female employees on that shift were detained while attempting to take crystals out of the plant. The employees on that shift ometimes violate the rules. After they have taken a stone from the conveyor belt and put it in a cup, they are obliged to raise their hands and show the camera they are empty. They fail to do this sometimes, and after several verbal warnings we are forced to take them to the search room. Before the new management was installed, private security firms worked at the plant for a long time. Guards and employees mixed, and raw gems were taken from the plant. Now we have put an end to the thefts and hired inhouse security. The business about the gynecological chair is not true. We are a state enterprise, and we have more serious needs.”

Specialists will have to put the complicated matter to a rest. The woman have sent written appeals to the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner and the State Labor Inspectorate for Sverdlovsk Region. Both agencies confirmed they have received the complaints, and assured us that measures would be taken to arbitrate the conflict.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to the Left-Fem Facebook group for the heads-up

“We Have a Surrogate Democracy”: An Interview with Ekaterina Schulman

Ekaterina Schulman. Photo courtesy of Andrei Stekachov and The Village

Political Scientist Ekaterina Schulman on Why You Should Vote
Anya Chesova and Natasha Fedorenko
The Village
September 16, 2016

This Sunday, September 18, the country will vote for a new State Duma, the seventh since the fall of the Soviet Union. The peculiarity of this vote is that it will take place under a mixed electoral system for the first time since 2003. 225 MPs will be elected to five-year tears from party lists, while the other 225 MPs will be elected from single-mandate districts. Several days before the elections, The Village met with Ekaterina Schulman, a political scientist and senior lecturer at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). We talked with her about why you should vote if United Russia is going to win in any case, as well as about the changes in store for the Russian political system in the coming years.


The Upcoming Elections

The Village: On Sunday, the country will hold the first elections to the State Duma since 2011. The social climate in the city and the country as a whole has changed completely since that time. Protests erupted in 2011, and the people who protested on Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Avenue believed they could impact the political situation. Nowadays, few people have held on to such hopes. What should we expect from the upcoming elections? And why should we bother with them?

Ekaterina Schulman: Everything happening now with the State Duma election is a consequence of the 2011–2012 protests, including changes in the laws, the introduction of the mixed system, the return of single-mandate MPs, the lowering of the threshold for parties to be seated in the Duma from seven to five percent, and the increased number of parties on the ballot. These are the political reforms outlined by then-president Dmitry Medvedev as a response to the events of December 2011. Later, we got a new head of state, but it was already impossible to take back these promises. The entire political reality we observe now has grown to one degree or another out of the 2011–2012 protest campaign, whether as rejection, reaction or consequence. It is the most important thing to happen in the Russian political arena in recent years.

The statements made by Vyacheslav Volodin, the president’s deputy chief of staff, on the need to hold honest elections, Vladimir Churov’s replacement by Ella Pamfilova as head of the Central Electoral Commission, the departure of someone more important than Churov from the CEC, deputy chair Leonid Ivlev, and the vigorous sacking of chairs of regional electoral commissions are all consequences of the protests. If they had not taken place, nothing would have changed. We would still have the same proportional voting system, the same seven-percent threshold, the same old Churov or Churov 2.0. Continue reading ““We Have a Surrogate Democracy”: An Interview with Ekaterina Schulman”