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Russian air traffic controllers in several cities go on strike

Tourists flock to see dolphins at Bangprakong estuary

Cathay Pacific raises over HK$7.5 Million for UNICEF through ‘Change for Good’ program

Russian air traffic controllers in several cities go on strike

Air traffic controllers in several Siberian cities who monitor flights between Moscow and Central Asia and Russia’s Far East have begun a hunger strike to demand higher wages, Russian media reported Friday.

The strike, involving at least 100 people, has closed some swaths of western Siberian airspace to afternoon and night flights. It threatens to force the cancellation of flights and the closure of airports as the protest action spreads to other cities.

The Prosecutor General’s Office has warned that it may resort to court action to force the strikers back to work, ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

“We will not give up,” said Sergei Kovalyov, president of the Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Trade Unions, according to Interfax news agency. “We are even ready to stop drinking water.”

The strike began in the western Siberian city of Surgut with about 20 air traffic controllers protesting over 5,000 ruble (US$161, or about 6900 baht) monthly paychecks, which they said were below subsistence level, TVS television reported. Colleagues in other Siberian cities then joined them, beginning in Nizhnevartovsk and Khanty-Mansiisk on Wednesday. Thursday brought support from about 30 controllers in Novosibirsk and 40 workers from Salekhard, Interfax news agency reported. Controllers in the Siberian city of Omsk also gave the protest action their backing.

TVS showed one group of about a dozen protesters in Surgut sprawling on coaches, emptying out refrigerators and receiving check-ups from doctors. Others were shown drinking water mixed with medicine, TVS said.

“We expect our numbers to keep growing,” Stanislav Dasmanov, an air traffic controller in Novosibirsk told TVS.

So far, the airports were substituting experts from airport administration to handle control tower duties, and making some scheduling changes. Airspace over Surgut was closed from 2 p.m. to 7 a.m., Interfax reported.

Alexander Neradko, chief of Russia’s Civil Aviation Service, told TVS that the situation was not endangering or disrupting air traffic. He flew to Surgut to meet with the strikers.

“We hope the efforts we are making will help bring the situation back to normal and avoid any further deterioration,” he said.

But officials said pay hikes were not feasible.

Anatoly Stepanov, an air traffic controller in Omsk, told ITAR-Tass that the 5,000 ruble (US$161) wage was “an insult to workers responsible for ... the lives of people.”

Strikes in post-Soviet Russia are common, particularly among government employees who are often the lowest paid. Another strike was underway in the northwestern city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, where about 1,000 garbage collectors were protesting low wages, Russian television reported.

Tourists flock to see dolphins at Bangprakong estuary

Hordes of tourists are coming to get a glimpse of dolphins at the Bangprakong estuary in the eastern province of Chachoengsao, generating fisherman profitable revenue.

Preecha Suwan, a tourist boat business owner said that the number of tourists has soared since last October. “Especially during the weekends, boats are not adequate for serving crowds of visitors. Local fishermen rake in tens of thousands of baht annually from the business,” he said.

Chetpradit Sawadchai, a tourist, said that the boat trip to see dolphins was very impressive and the 400 baht price for boat service is not too expensive. He urged the riverside residents and concerned government bodies to help keep the river clean, as polluted water may force the dolphins to leave the bay. (TNA)

Cathay Pacific raises over HK$7.5 Million for UNICEF through ‘Change for Good’ program

Cathay Pacific Airways is pleased to announce that over HK$7.5 million was raised for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) through last year’s Change for Good in-flight fund-raising program and cordially invites passengers to donate leftover foreign currency for this year’s program until 14 August 2003.

The Change for Good program kindly asks Cathay Pacific passengers to donate to charity spare change brought back form overseas trips. Passengers can make a donation simply by placing their spare foreign change in the Change for Good envelope which can be found in the airplane seat pockets and then hand the envelope to a cabin crewmember.

Since the Change for Good program’s inception in 1991, Cathay Pacific has raised a total of HK$40 million for UNICEF to support relief projects in 161 developing countries around the world.