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Sixteen Russian Steel Workers Start Hunger Strike

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) -- Sixteen Russian steel workers have begun a hunger strike in protest against wage cuts and threatened redundancies at the Zlatoust steel plant in the Ural Mountains, a protest organizer has said.

Management at the plant, owned by privately held steel group ESTAR, have called the strike illegal and taken its case to the local prosecutor.

"We began with five and then managed to persuade others," strike organizer Aleksandr Negrebetskikh told Reuters by telephone from Zlatoust, a town of nearly 200,000 people about 160 kilometers west of regional center Chelyabinsk.

"The plant's management, using the threat of redundancies, is forcing us to sign agreements under which we must receive two-thirds of our salaries. This is only 5,000 rubles [$139.9]," Negrebetskikh said.

"The plant feeds our families and we want to receive a normal wage."

The plant's management said in a statement: "The activities of those participating in the action are, in our opinion, provocative of an extreme nature and are aimed at destabilizing the situation not only at the enterprise, but in the town itself."