Aluminum producer Rusal’s plans to curtail production in Russia began to generate the expected backlash, with workers in the city of Krasnoturyinsk rallying to demand the plant’s nationalization and threaten a hunger strike on Sunday.
Some 1,000 people attended the protest in Krasnoturyinsk, a city in the Urals with a population of 60,000 that has only one major industrial enterprise, Rusal’s Bogoslovsky Aluminum Smelter, NR2.ru regional news website said.
The world’s biggest aluminum producer said last week it is slashing production at four of its factories across Russia, including Bogoslovsky, that went unprofitable due to high energy costs, hiked by the government this summer.
The smelter is losing some $500 for every ton of aluminum it produces, NR2.ru said.
Local officials attended the Sunday rally and tried to calm down the public, but were booed by the protesters who demanded to nationalize the plant, the report said. Rusal managers skipped the rally, and the company made no statement on the protest.
The event ended without any incidents, but workers said they would go on hunger strike if a governmental commission set to begin work on Tuesday fails to help them.
Local police said some 500 protesters attended the rally, with another 200 gathering for a similar event in the city later the same day.
Russia has about 400 company towns like Krasnoturyinsk that are centered around a single enterprise, according to governmental figures from 2010, the most recent ones available. Many enterprises struggle to yield a profit, risking shutdowns and social unrest.
The government has intervened in such situations before, most famously in 2009, when then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally prevented owners from closing a set of three interdependent plants in the Leningrad region’s city of Pikalyovo, where fired workers started blocking federal highways in protest.