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Tajik nationals working as construction workers in Russia's Urals
Tajik nationals working as construction workers in Russia's Urals city of Yekaterinburg are striking over wage arrears in the first major protest in the country since the start of the financial crisis.

Trade union officials warned more strikes could follow amid widespread job cuts and the non-payment of salaries.

The 112 Tajik nationals began striking on Thursday, and local prosecutors said on Monday they hav begun looking into their complaints. While 300 workers have not been paid, many have already left for Tajikistan.

"The construction company's debt to the workers stands at several million rubles. The inquiry is continuing," prosecutors said.

The head of a local Tajik public organization, Somon, which organized the strike, said prosecutors had ordered the construction company to settle the wage arrears before December 3.

The construction workers have not been paid for three months, and the company's total debt to them stands at 11 million rubles ($400,000), according to business daily Kommersant.

"They have been treating us as if we did not exist. Security guards have not been letting us into the offices, and management has said they will pay us without saying when," the foreman, Abasbek Mukhayev, told the daily, adding all the Tajik builders were working legally in the country and had signed contracts with the company.

The Federal Migration Service said many construction companies have either cut wages or refused to pay to workers while keeping them on the books amid the growing financial crisis.

The head of the local regional trade union association also told the paper that many Russian companies were planning mass dismissals of guest workers as construction projects continue to be frozen across the country.

"The strike [by Tajik workers] may mark the beginning of mass protests among workers from former Soviet republics," Andrei Betluzhskikh told the paper.

Russia's construction industry - until recently booming - is expected to be among the hardest-hit sectors as the financial crisis takes hold. The export price for oil, the country's main source of revenue, has tumbled to $53 from $155 a barrel recently.

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