Staunton, May 18 – Russia’s long-haul truckers who repeatedly stress that they haven’t ended their strike against the Plato fee system but simply taken “a time out” to see how the authorities will respond, may very well restart their labor action after three government moves in the last 24 hours.
After a work stoppage of more than five weeks, many truckers have returned to work in order to earn money to support their families; but they and especially their leaders have insisted that this is “a time out” and not the end of the strike (tumenpro.ru/2017/05/18/zabastovka-ne-zakonchena-vzyat-taym-aut-tyumenskie-dalnoboyshhiki-ob-itogah-vserossiyskoy-stachki/).
Many have been pleased that regional authorities have begun to negotiate with them and have even shown support for their positions, and they have welcomed statements by senior Russian parliamentarians that the entire Plato system should be reviewed in order to modify or even cancel it.
But now that most drivers have returned to work, Russian officials appear to be hardening their positions and both making statements and taking actions that may cause the drivers to renew their work action in the near future. Three such tough responses have appeared in the last 24 hours:
First, the Russian transportation ministry has approved and sent to the Duma a draft law that would double fines for those who seek to avoid paying the Plato fees (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=591C449FCD5CB).
Second, that ministry’s deputy head has said that any reductions in the Plato system fees will have to be small because of the harm that the truckers do to the highways and the need to raise money to fix the roads (tass.ru/ekonomika/4259216).
And third, at least one regional government – in Kaluga – has indicated that it may need to introduce its own Plato system to raise money to fix regional highways that are not currently being supported by Moscow (regnum.ru/news/society/2276412.html).
Obviously, it is likely to be far more difficult to restart the strike than it was to get it started in the first place, but such actions will certainly radicalize some truckers who will point to them as clear indications that workers can’t trust the authorities to keep their promises. And that radicalization could lead to increasing politicization of the strike movement as well.