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Russian Workers Protest Slashed Wages At Lada Maker

Sales of Ladas have fallen
TOGLIATTI, Russia (Reuters) -- Hundreds of workers at Russia's biggest carmaker has demanded the state nationalize the producer of the iconic Lada after management decided to slash wages as sales tumble.

More than 1,500 AvtoVAZ workers gathered in the city of Togliatti, which lies in Russia's industrial heartland 900 kilometers southeast of Moscow.

AvtoVAZ, owned by France's Renault and a Russian state-owned corporation, has denied it plans massive layoffs but workers' incomes will be cut to half their precrisis level from September 1 as hours have been slashed.

"The Unity union has taken the decision to demand the nationalisation of AvtoVAZ," the leader of the main independent union at the plant, Pyotr Zolotaryev, told workers at the protest.

"Let the plant belong to the state not private owners," he said.

After a decade-long economic boom, Russia is in recession. Unemployment has soared and protests have erupted.

Russia's car market was until recently Europe's fastest growing but has seen sales tumble and AvtoVAZ has stopped its production line for August.

Workers will do a 20-hour week from September, which will push down monthly incomes to about half their precrisis level of 21,931 rubles ($706).

Togliatti was built from scratch to house workers at AvtoVAZ, which made cheap cars available to the Soviet masses. The company has denied reports it plans to lay off 27,691 people, or a quarter of its staff.