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Tuesday, September 22, 1998 Published at 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK


Teachers paid in vodka

Better than nothing

Teachers in part of western Siberia are being paid in bottles of vodka, because the authorities have no money to meet their wages bill.

The teachers in the most populous Maima district of the Altai republic are getting 15 bottles each. They have not been paid their proper salaries since February or March.

An Itar-Tass news agency correspondent in the region says the teachers reckon it is better to get the vodka - which can be sold in local markets - than nothing at all.

An attempt to pay them with toilet paper and funeral accessories provoked indignation.

The teachers responding by suggesting that remuneration of that sort should go to members of the republic's government and parliament.

The region's wage debts to more than 8,000 teachers exceed 54 million roubles (about $3.4m). Altai's budget is 75% subsidised by the Russian Federation.

The Deputy Minister of Public Education, Alexander Palkin, says the republic is to receive 40 million roubles from the Russian Finance Ministry in the near future: appropriate documents were signed in August.

Strikes among teaching staff have become increasingly common in Russia amid mounting furstration at the non-payment of wages - which also afflicts other sectors of the economy.

Other workers have been offered payment in bicycles, cabbages, and bras.

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