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Workers at a Ford car manufacturing plant near St. Petersburg, Russia,
Workers at a Ford car manufacturing plant near St. Petersburg, Russia, launched a one-day strike on Wednesday demanding higher wages, the plant trade union chief said.

Alexei Etmanov said the strike involved about 1,500 workers and would last one day, but could resume on November 20 for an indefinite period if managers do not raise wages from March 1, 2008.

The carmaker's public relations manager Yekaterina Kulinenko confirmed the strike, saying the production line had been stopped. She also said the company had referred the case to a court of law.

"The management has filed a suit with a district court requesting that the strike be ruled illegitimate," Kulinenko said.

She said the company had not been notified of the strike at least 10 days in advance, as required by the Russian Labor Code, and that potentially dangerous equipment had been left unattended.

The U.S. auto giant's sole Russian plant employs 2,200 people, whose average wage is about 21,000 rubles ($850) a month, according to plant administration.

The trade union said the decision to start the strike was taken after management had repeatedly rejected pay rise demands.

A previous dispute between management and employees was resolved after a one-day strike in March 2007, when the plant administration made concessions, concluding a new collective labor contract which envisioned higher wages and better employment benefits.

Ford produces its Focus models in Russia, and plans to increase output from the current 72,000 cars to 100,000 cars a year by 2009. The carmaker also plans to launch the production of 25,000 Mondeo models a year.


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