Local sources in the Luhansk region report a strike at a metallurgical plant located in the city of Alchevsk in the non-government-controlled part of the region. Several hundreds of workers have been on strike since April 21. The workers demand that all their salaries of the last three winter months be paid in full. As of April 27, they had this year received only one-fifth of their December salary.
The strike began after the management had drastically decreased the amount of weekly payments from 15 to 20% of the previous unpaid salaries. Our source said that in the week from April 19 to April 25 the workers had received only 10% of their December salary. Towards the end of the month the number of workers joining the strike has increased. There have been no reports of strikers been threatened or intimidated by local security services.
The owner of the plant is Sergey Kurchenko, a former Ukrainian oligarch who is now a citizen of Russia. Our contact reports, on condition of anonymity, “Kurchenko used to long boast that he enjoyed support from high echelons of power in Moscow, including the FSB and Sergey Nazarov, the deputy minister for the economic development of Russia, who was Kurchenko’s protector in Moscow.” The source claims that Kurchenko is under scrutiny in Moscow due to “a number of questions put to him by law-enforcement,” which might explain why people on strike can struggle “undisturbed”.
People from Alchevsk describe an absolutely desperate humanitarian situation in the city. There has been no hot water in the city for years and cold water appears every second day. The people who agreed to speak stated that the workers are concerned about the fate of the plant as they observe management selling scrap metal and other materials needed to operate the blast furnaces. They claim that the main danger now is the fact that the only working blast furnace has been damaged due to improper use in obeying orders of the management.
If the plant stops working, it would affect the lives of all the one hundred thousand inhabitants of Alchevsk. Now the plant is dependent on blast furnace No.5, which had already been damaged some years ago. People claim that it can work at half efficiency because there is a crack in the safety carcass.
The other furnaces had gone out of use even before the war. The problem was also the bad management of the plant.
The Alchevsk city lies some 45 km away from Luhansk and was founded in 1895 when the Donetsko-Yuryevsky iron works were established. It developed into a large, integrated iron and steel works mainly in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Alchevsk Iron & Steel plant was nationalized by the breakaway “republic” authorities and has been controlled by Sergey Kurchenko´s Vneshtorgservis SJSC company since March 2017. The plant produces slabs, square billets, and structural shapes.