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Russian Factory Workers Launch Hunger Strike

TOMSK, Russia -- Twenty employees of a ball-bearing factory in the Russian city of Tomsk have gone on hunger strike to demand their overdue salaries, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The workers at Tomsk Ball Bearing Factory say they have not been paid for over 18 months. The factory's management, which owes the work force a total of 42 million rubles ($1.36 million), had to send 700 workers on unpaid vacation as of September 1.

The factory's owner, Sergei Magazov, promised to pay off all overdue salaries by October 1. He drew up a schedule for the gradual payment of back wages, but the payments reportedly have not been made regularly.

After Magazov did not show up for a meeting with workers on September 20, 20 workers announced the hunger strike. They say they will not leave the factory premises until all overdue salaries are paid in full.

The hunger strikers include several women. There is no electricity or heating in the room they are currently occupying, as electricity and heating supplies to the plant have been cut off due to unpaid debts.

The remaining workers told RFE/RL that they plan to hold a mass gathering today to support the hunger strikers. The Tomsk city authorities have not yet commented on the situation.