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Kazakh Subway Workers To Start Hunger Strike Over Upaid Wages

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Dozens of construction workers building a subway in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, have vowed to begin a hunger strike on August 11 to demand three months of unpaid wages, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The workers -- who have been on a general strike for three days -- gathered at a metro station construction site on August 10 and forced their way past security guards to meet with Kwon Ken Gyn, the local director of their employer, the Uranus CNI construction company.

Kwon said his company has not been able to pay workers' wages because the company did not make its construction deadlines.

"After we were not able to accomplish the planned work, our partner company, AlmatyMetroQurylys, refused to pay us, and therefore we are not able to pay the wages," he said.

But AlmatyMetroQurylys Director Takhir Kalendarev told journalists that Uranus CNI owes his company money, not the other way around.

Striking worker Daniyar Beisenbekov told RFE/RL that dozens of workers will begin the hunger strike in the workers' locker room.

"Tomorrow Ramadan starts, we do not have money for food anyway, since we have not received our wages since June," he said. "Therefore we decided to start the hunger strike on the first day of...the Muslim holy month of fasting."

Construction of the metro in Almaty first began in 1988. Official sources said some $8 billion has been spent on the project and a further $200 million is needed to complete it.

President Nursultan Nazarbaev inspected the work on the metro in April and assured Almaty residents the subway system will start functioning by the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence on December 16, 2011.