By Paul Goble
Yekaterinburg’s Compressor Factory has not been able to pay its workers fully over the last several months, and some of them have gone on strike and appealed to the government to force the concern to pay their back wages. But the factory managers have responded by saying that “no one asked about pay during the Great Fatherland War.”
The position of both sides is understandable. The factory hasn’t been paid by some of its customers who are under sanctions and has not been able to produce as much as it did for the same reason. But the workers have every right to demand that they be paid in full and on time, something that is not the case (eanews.ru/news/v-velikuyu-otechestvennuyu-nikto-ne-sprashival-pro-zarplatu-direktor-uralskogo-kompressornogo-zavoda-obyasnil-pochemu-zadolzhal-rabochim_23-06-2022).
What is interesting about this case is that the managers have invoked the memory of World War II to suggest how they think Russian workers now should respond to Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, an invocation highlighting how Russians view what is happening there and why they aren’t as impressed by the World War II analogy as some might expect.
If the war and sanctions increase the amount of back pay Russian concerns owe workers, the Kremlin will have to choose between defending the firms or defending the workers. Regardless of which group it decides to back, Moreover Russians are likely to be angry not only about pay but about the war Putin has taken the country into.