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Ford's Russian Workers Acting Italian

Workers servicing a car at the Vsevolzhsk plant in 2005. Sergey Grachev

Car maker Ford Sollers suspended manufacturing at its Vsevolzhsk plant near St. Petersburg on Friday amid a rare strike by employees protesting decisions by the factory's management.

The plant workers started the strike last Monday after management announced that the manufacturing line would stand idle starting in mid-December because the production target for this year would be fulfilled ahead of schedule, chairman of Ford's local labor union Alexander Kashitsin said.

This will result in employees being forced to take vacation, with only two thirds of their monthly salaries to be paid, he said by telephone from Vsevolzhsk, adding that previously, workers went on vacation for the New Year holidays starting in late December, in line with legislation.

In a reciprocal move, Kashitsin said, workers started the so-called work-to-rule campaign, which is expected to intentionally cause a manufacturing slowdown, so the plant will continue working.

The company's plant in Vsevolzhsk produces Ford Mondeo and Ford Focus models.

The idea of the campaign, which is also called an "Italian" strike, is to carry out manufacturing strictly following all the Labor Code regulations, such as work safety rules and those governing production algorithms, which will inevitably lead to a decline in work capacity.

"It often happens in Russia that if you fulfill all the rules you might not meet the production plan," Kashitsin said.

The company suspended production of Ford Mondeo models because of a shortage of car parts, with production to be resumed soon, Ford Sollers said in a statement. Manufacturing of Ford Focus vehicles was suspended on Friday and Saturday because the plant had fulfilled the weekly production plan for that model, the statement said.

A spokeswoman for the company said by telephone that no strike had taken place at the plant.

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