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Business news, 17.04.2007 17:34

Heineken St. Petersburg goes on "Italian strike"

heinken_logo The management of Heineken's St. Petersburg brewery claims the company is working as usual, although the trade union has begun a so-called "Italian strike."

Analysts have advised the management not to aggravate the conflict, because the high profitability of the beer sector allows for higher salaries.

The brewery's staff wants a 30% increase, and another 8%-10% for personnel working in hazardous areas. Valery Sokolov, the trade union chief at the brewery, said the staff would work according to the rules until the management agrees to discuss the issue. The management refused to meet with the workers Friday.

Igor Gushchev, a partner at Duvernoix Legal, said the conflict at Heineken St. Petersburg was provoked by differences in the interpretation of the Labor Code.

The profitability of the beer industry is very high. Maxim Saenkov, an analyst with the CIT Finance investment bank, said: "The example of Baltika shows that profitability in the sector can reach 40%, and that the sector's companies have a margin for increasing wages. The experience of trade unions at enterprises in St. Petersburg shows that the workers eventually get what they want. Heineken's personnel policy is its internal affair, but I don't think it would benefit from aggravating the conflict."

In January 2006, the trade union at Heineken St. Petersburg demanded a 50% rise in wages. Heineken raised them 27%-30% in March.

Ford Motors had problems with trade unions at its plant in Vsevolozhsk in the Leningrad Region, where the workers twice stopped production, in autumn 2005 and in February 2007, getting a 14% wage increase both times. The other day, a trade union was established at the Moscow factory of Avtoframos, controlled by Renault.

Yegor Noskov, a managing partner at Duvernoix Legal, said the trade union movement in Russia would grow stronger primarily at the plants of major Western companies, because wages are paid there 100% legally, without under-the-counter payments.

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