Kuzbass Miners defend their Right to Life
At least 66 people are known to have been killed in a gas explosion at the Raspadskaya Mine in Mezhdurechinsk (West Siberia) on 9 May.
On 14 May around 200 Mezhdurechinsk residents blocked the railway between Novokuznets and Abakan demanding a meeting with the City Mayor and head of the mine, as well as for Prime Minister Putin to come. The protest was brutally crushed by OMON [riot police] officers, with women and children among those beaten. The protesters then set fire to the tracks, and 28 were arrested.
Kuzbass Miners have issued an open appeal to President Medvedev and the people of Russia. They call for the release of those arrested and for a stop to the persecution of people who took part in the demonstration, as well as a tripling in their salaries.
They warn of protests if their demands are not met.
As the report below from Financial Times indicates, these are people forced to risk – and often lose – their lives. Brutally dispersing protest is no way to resolve an urgent problem.
The Financial Times quotes Eldar Gabdarakhmanovich, head of the Independent Union of Miners at Raspadskaya mine as saying that "The problem is with the management system, not the equipment." Miners are paid by the tonne of coal they bring out, and will do a lot to get that coal, including ignoring safety regulations. "If you are the head of a brigade and the choice is observing the standard or digging an extra 1,000 tonnes of coal, unfortunately they usually go for the latter," he said.
None of the miners interviewed would talk about an open secret in the town, in the heart of the coal mining region of Kuzbass, which is that in order to fulfil monthly production plans, miners routinely disable the methane detectors.
Mr Repin, when asked about violation of safety regulations, paused for a thoughtful moment, and said: "If we make the monthly plan, we get 45,000 roubles that month. If we dont, its 20,000. Thats all Im going to say. You know, anything can happen."
Investigators working on the cause of the blast have raised "human error" as one possible cause. A similar commission looking into a blast at the nearby Uliyanovsk mine in March 2007, which killed 110, found that miners had disabled the detectors by putting coats over them.
In an open letter to President Medvedev and the people of Russia, the Union of Kuzbass Residents write:
At the same time that they are making billions out of us and building themselves palaces and villas which the Prime Minister then visits, we are dying in our hundreds in the mines, our people are killing themselves for a pittance.
The latest events in Mezhdurechinsk are the final proof that we can’t tolerate this any longer. We will not be slaves, cattle whose needs can be ignored, however much some of the leaders may want this. We are tired of slavery and humiliation. Enough!
We turn to President Medvedev. If, of course, it is he who is President, and no somebody else.
- Release all those arrested in Mezhdurechinsk and end all persecution. Stop the insults and slander of city residents in the central media;
- Triple wages at all viable mines of the region, calculating from the minimal wage, but no lower than 45,000 roubles. It is because of the low wages that there are infringements of safety regulations which result in hundreds dying;
- Stop persecution for independent trade union activities in defence of workers’ interests. Severely punish those guilty of such persecution.
- Remove from Mezhdurechinsk law enforcement bodies brought in from other cities;
- Introduce in every city a monthly public meeting with the head of the city administration so that they answer the people as to what they have done that’s useful during the previous month, and answer questions personally, receive petitions and appeals.
Other solutions will not satisfy us..
We await your answer, Mr President by Friday morning, 21 May.
If our demands are not met, we will be forced to speak and act in the sphere of politics, and not social demands. “
They call on Kuzbass residents – on all who care about the situation in their country - to gather in particular cities of the region on 22 May, outside the relevant city administration at 16.00.
“We warn Minister Nurgalieva and Governor Tuleyev to not “joke” with us like on the evening of 14 May in Mezhdurechinsk.
We know that they often don’t hear us and instead of talks, they bring in the OMON [riot police]. Therefore
- We call on all parties and civic structures of the country and ask for your support. At least an official statement that you support our demands and are ready, together with other parties, to support us, however you can in our self-defence. Lack of an official position by 21 May will mean that you are in fact against the people, which will be brought to the attention of the entire country. At present only the representative of one party has tried to help us, the others are silent. We will need information and legal help, for our arrested brothers in Mezhdurechinsk and other help, including organizational, from you;
- We call on all the media that have not sold out: to tell people of our demands; to send us your correspondents on 22 May; to publish true information about the events not the lies from television;
There is a list of requests to people in the Kuzbass region to help them fight false information and to protect the miners against persecution.
THEY ALSO CALL ON PEOPLE TO HELP THEM BREAK THE INFORMATION BLOCKADE SINCE THEIR FORUM SITES AND GROUPS IN SOCIAL NETWORKS ARE BLOCKED BY THE FSB [SECURITY SERVICE]
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