Employees at Ford assembly plant in Russia resume work pending further talks

Production resumed at Ford Motor Co.'s only car assembly plant in Russia on Thursday, with nearly 1,400 employees returning to work pending further talks with plant officials, a union leader said.

Alexei Etmanov, head of the labor union at the Vsevolozhsk plant, near St. Petersburg, said work on the assembly lines resumed around midnight and would continue at least until contract negotiations with company officials resumed later in the day.

The assembly line and other operations halted work at midnight Wednesday, as union leaders demanded the company stop using temporary workers, guarantee jobs for workers injured at the plant and provide extra pay and other benefits for hazardous assignments.

About 8 percent of the plant's work force are temporary workers; monthly wages at the plant average between 13,000 to 19,000 rubles (US$495-US$720; EUR380-Ђ550).

Company officials said management was ready to continue negotiations, but union leaders had rebuffed their offers. They also maintained that working conditions at the five-year-old plant were in line with local labor regulations and Ford's own safety standards, reports AP.

The Vsevolozhsk plant produced about 60,000 cars last year, mainly the Focus model, and plant officials hoped to increase production to 75,000 this year.

Foreign automakers have been eager to open assembly plants in Russia to reach the growing number of consumers in the country. Soaring world oil prices have boosted Russia's economy, lifting living standards and enabling more people to buy cars.

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