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Russian Oil Workers In Astrakhan Launch Hunger Strike

ASTRAKHAN -- Ten employees of the Gemma Oil Company in the Caspian city of Astrakhan have started a hunger strike to demand payment of their overdue salaries, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The hunger strikers claim the company has not paid its workers for more than one year. Numerous strikes and lawsuits did not bring any results, they say.

On August 23, dozens of employees at the company's office in the town of Ilyinsk in Astrakhan Oblast were laid off without any severance payment. That was the last straw, the strikers say.

One of the hunger strikers, Tamara Bychkova, told RFE/RL that she and her husband had not paid taxes and housing utility fees since January, as their employer had not paid their salaries since last year. She added that her son was expelled from university as she and her husband were not able to pay for his tuition.

Another hunger striker, Lyubov Nozdrina, told RFE/RL that although Gemma workers had been helping to develop the region's oil and gas fields, the Astrakhan Oblast government has done nothing to help them.

The Gemma Oil Company is officially registered in Krasnodar Krai. Astrakhan Oblast officials have sent a request to the Krasnodar Krai authorities urging them to make Gemma's management pay all its debts to its employees. The strike began on August 25, and the hunger strikers say they will continue their protest until all overdue salaries are paid.

No comment was immediately available from Gemma management.