More than 50 municipal cleaners from Daghestan’s capital, Makhachkala, gathered on the city’s central square on Tuesday demanding that three months of unpaid wages be paid to them. Officials met with the protesters and promised they would receive their back-pay by 3 August.
Daghestan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Dzhafarov, Deputy Mayor of Makhachkala Murad Aliyev, and Anvar Zurkhayev, the director of cleaning company Makhachkalinskaya Gorochistka, met with the protesters.
Protesters told OC Media that over the last five years, the city had changed private cleaning companies four times, and that each time, having run up debts, the companies were closed and renamed. During the rally, protesters learned that their employer had changed once again, and that they were already working for a fifth company, the state-owned Makhachkalinskaya Gorochtistka, but had not been informed. ‘Up until today, we didn’t know which company we worked for’, one of the cleaners said.
‘It’s a mockery’
‘We aren’t paid salaries, but we still go out and clean streets because we understand that the city’s appearance depends on our work. But it appears that only we care about this, because the salary problems are continuous. Last month, we also [protested] at the square, and as a result, we were paid one month’s salary. That’s only ₽6,400 ($100) for three months!’, one woman told OC Media.
The cleaners also complained about their working conditions. ‘There are worms near the rubbish, no one removes dead cats or dogs’, one protester told OC Media. ‘We go out at four in the morning and see drunks and drug addicts. And they tell us: if you don’t like it — quit. And today our bosses told us that everyone at the rally would be fired. And we have nothing to live on, to pay rent’.
Protesters said that for many years they had worked on weekends and without holidays or sick leave. In the last 5–6 years, however, they said their situation had worsened. They complained that the previous cleaning company, Gorzelenkhoz, for which they believed they were still working, would regularly collect money from them, such as ₽200 ($3) for document photographs or ₽500 ($8) for medical examinations, claiming their documents had been lost. ‘They’re making a mockery of us’, one protester said.
The cleaners were also upset over a reduction in the number of municipal plots to clean and a lack of compensation for cleaning extra plots. They say they’re also forbidden from cleaning side streets, as the company can’t afford to pay for the labour, so they only clean the central streets in the city.
Deputy Mayor of Makhachkala Murad Aliyev, who oversees housing and communal services in the city, persuaded the protesters to meet with the interim city head, Abusupyan Gasanov, in the Makhachkala administrative building.
According to protesters, Gasanov asked for forgiveness over the cleaners’ situation and promised to reimburse the remaining two months’ wages by 3 August. In addition, they were informed that their monthly salaries would be increased from around ₽7,000 ($110) to ₽11,200 ($190).
On the same day, the Investigation Department of Daghestan announced plans to conduct a pre-investigation check on the non-payment of more than two months’ wages for employees of the cleaning company.
‘We didn’t have time to announce tenders’
The Deputy Mayor of Makhachkala, Murad Aliyev, told OC Media that the Makhachkalinskaya Gorochistka company was created in order to avoid legislative delays related to the city administration’s control of rubbish collection. Waste removal in Makhachkala has previously been carried out by private companies of their choosing. According to Aliyev, the city administration ‘didn’t have time to announce tenders’ this year, and thereby couldn’t contract Gorzelenkhoz directly.
‘We wanted an organisation that would be under our control, so money would go to the construction of sites [for waste disposal] and the purchase of rubbish containers’, he said. The company Makhachkalinskaya Gorochistka was created to manage the city’s waste, because its legal form allows finances to be routed directly from the administration without a tender, through the city’s Housing Management Administration. According to Aliyev, this slowed the process of paying salaries, because the Administration has debts and their accounts are frequently frozen.
The director of Makhachkalinskaya Gorochistka, Anvar Zurkhayev, declined a request for comment.