The Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far eastern Amur region has been hit by delays and arrests over embezzlement (Dmitry Rogozin)

Russian spaceport workers go on hunger strike over unpaid wages

14 April 2015 | By Rod Sweet 0 Comments

Workers at Russia’s most important construction project spent part of Easter on hunger strike in protest over unpaid wages amounting to millions of rubles.

“The workers have confirmed to me that they are prepared to stay on site. Their working and living conditions will be improved. I am double-checking everything”– Dmitry Rogozin, Russian deputy prime minister

Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin had personally to intervene to end the dispute affecting the beleaguered project to build the Vostochny Cosmodrome, in Russia’s far eastern Amur region.

This latest drama affecting the cosmodrome, which has been hit by delays and arrests over embezzlement, comes just weeks after Rogozin approved an extra 32 billion rubles ($512m) to speed up construction.

In September 2014 Rogozin took personal control over the project and last month threatened to “rip heads off” if anyone delays the project or steals money. 

Live web cameras have been installed to expose any slacking to the Russian public.

The government wants the facility to be ready to launch a space rocket by the end of this year but ongoing problems could mean that deadline goes unmet. 

14 million rubles

On Good Friday (3 April) 26 workers began a hunger strike, joining another 100 workers who had begun a conventional strike over unpaid wages. 

Spetsstroy, a federal agency linked to the military that is acting as contractor on the spaceport, owes more than 14 million rubles (approximately $270,000) in unpaid wages, newspaper Vedomosti reported (says Moscow Times), citing the Prosecutor General’s Office.

But on Easter Monday (6 April) Rogozin said on social media platform Twitter that he had resolved the dispute.

“The workers have confirmed to me that they are prepared to stay on site,” he wrote. “Their working and living conditions will be improved. I am double-checking everything”.

On the same day Rogozin tweeted that he had earlier fired the head of Dalspetsstroy, Dmitry Savin. “He didn’t only hide the workers’ problems but also hired his wife paying her a salary of 800,000 roubles a month,” he wrote.

In a bid to ram his point home, the following day he tweeted: “I’ve warned that we’re not going to confine ourselves to firing those who violated Cosmodrome builders’ rights”.

Photograph: The Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far eastern Amur region has been hit by delays and arrests over embezzlement (Dmitry Rogozin)