Staunton, April 21 – Yesterday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that only 480 Russian truckers were on strike against the Plato system; but Andrey Bazhutin, head of the Carriers Union of Russia says that 600,000 truckers, 40 percent of the 1.5 million drivers in Russia, are currently on strike or acting in sympathy with it.
Union organizers acknowledge, however, that the number of active participants in the labor action, those who have parked their trucks in public places to demonstrate their opposition to the new fees may be far less, with estimates of those drivers ranging from 2500 to 6,000 (rbc.ru/society/19/04/2017/58f750389a7947c470ec8113).
Complicating the collection of any reliable figures are two other factors: the strike is extremely decentralized and the most active centers – in the North Caucasus and the Russian Far East – far from Moscow, and estimates of the total number of drivers range from 800,000 (Medvedev’s figure) to 1.5 million (that of the truckers themselves).
The first figure is the number of truckers who are registered with the government; the second includes not only those but the large number of drivers who have not sought such registration in order to avoid having to pay fees and taxes even to regional and local governments.
Despite that, it is clear that Medvedev’s figure is, as Valery Voytko, the coordinator of the Long-Haul Drivers Association, says, “unreliable” and far too low.
In any case, the strike continues, and it is having an impact. Not only are goods not being delivered and shelves empty in many places, but an increasing number of commentators and officials are calling on Moscow to revisit the question of the Plato fees in search of a compromise of some kind.
Today, for example, the legislative assembly of Astrakhan, one of the hubs of the strike, called on Moscow to reconsider the imposition of the Plato system, an indication that Moscow’s stance of continuing to demean or ignore the strikers may not be sustainable over the long haul (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/301427/).