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Miner Strikes Spread in Siberian Coal Region

July 14, 1989

MOSCOW (AP) _ Coal miners in one Siberian city ended a four-day strike Friday, but work stoppages spread to at least seven other cities in the region, Tass reported.

The official news agency said miners had added political demands to the original issues of better food and working conditions.

Miners in Mezhdurechensk, Siberia, where the strike began Monday night, went back to work for the Friday night shift, the official news agency said. The workers’ leaders and management had reached a settlement on Thursday.

A settlement was reached Friday evening in the city of Osinika, Tass said, but did not give further details.

Strikes also were reported in Prokopevski, Novokuznetsk, Kisilevsk, Lenin- Kuznetsk, Berezovski and Kemerov, Tass reported late Friday night.

Early reports said about 12,000 men struck Mezhdurechensk’s five mines and that there were walkouts in 10 cities; later reports only mentioned eight cities and did not say how many miners were involved outside Mezhdurechensk.

No violence was reported in the strikes.

Before returning to work, the miners in Mezhdurechensk held rallies outside their pits Friday night to demand that Communist Party and government leaders visit the Kuzbass region, Tass said.

It said the strike committee in Mezhdurechensk, a city of 110,000 people about 1,600 miles east of Moscow, also demanded that a new national constitution be adopted by next year.

Explaining the men’s dissatisfaction, miner Nikolai Yatsenko said in an interview with the government newspaper Izvestia:

″We were told for years, ‘Put out more coal and don’t worry about anything. We’ll feed you, and dress you, give you housing and child-care centers, houses of culture and sport.’ And we worked our heads off, put out coal, and now we hear: ’Not only do you have to put out coal, you have to take care of yourself in everything else too.‴

″How do we do that?″ Yatsenko asked. ″No matter who you turn to with your requests and complaints, no good comes of it, only promises.″

Among the workers’ 30 demands when the strike began were economic independence for the mines, extended vacations for underground workers and improved food and housing, the labor daily Trud reported.

Alexander Kolmogorov, a worker in Mezhdurechensk, said greater financial independence for individual mines and increased night-shift pay were among the demands a government negotiating commission agreed to meet immediately.

Providing better food and housing would take more time, he said.

In the past, the Soviet Union has brutally repressed strikes and hushed them up, but walkouts by miners this year generally have ended in a few days with government concessions.

Similar strikes were reported in March and April in the Urals Mountain city of Vorkuta and Norilsk in Siberia. Both ended without incident.

Twenty-four miners were said to be staying underground at Alexandria in the Ukraine with demands similar to those made in Mezhdurechensk.

Izvestia reported Friday that tens of thousands of people were crowding the central square in Mezhdurechensk day and night.

Kolmogorov said compatriots in the other Kuzbass cities seemed to be demonstrating belated solidarity, perhaps not knowing the government had agreed on Thursday to meet nearly all the strikers’ demands for the entire region.

″There’s a weak information connection and this is happening by chain reaction,″ he said in a telephone interview from the strike headquaters at his mine.

In an open letter to the Soviet government, the Mezhdurechensk strike committee has demanded food supplies for miners ″in accordance with dieticians’ norms,″ and that all privileges for mine officials be abolished, Tass reported.

A letter from Mezhdurechensk miners published by Trud in January complained that more than 10,000 families were waiting for apartments; hospitals and clinics were as crowded ″as anthills,″ with patients waiting a week or more to see a doctor, and schools had two or three times as many students as they were designed to accommodate.

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