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Sunday, March 8, 1998 Published at 20:18 GMT

World: Europe

Vodka salary puts fishermen in the drink
image: [ Vodka: does not mix well with trawler trips ]
Vodka: does not mix well with trawler trips

Fishermen at a company in the far east of Russia are literally drinking their paychecks. They are paid in vodka.

The men's wives say the Preobrazhensk Trawler Fleet firm in Vladivostok is turning their husbands into alcoholics. They are demanding that an end be put to the "lawless situation" in order to save their husbands, children and families.

In an open letter, the women said the company was "deliberately addicting" their husbands to alcohol. They complained that families of fishermen could not afford meat, fruit, vegetables or even bread.

Paying wages in goods instead of money has become a common practice in Russia where many firms are short of cash. But the wives say the company is sending boats out to sea with drunken crews and big supplies of alcohol aboard. They say this has led to a growing number of accidents and fatalities, including one sailor drinking himself to death.

According to a recent medical study, alcohol, and particularly so-called "binge drinking", are major causes for the country's high mortality rate. Russian men die, on average, by the age of 58, and officials say habitual vodka intake is largely to blame.

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