Behind Moscow printing plant fire: Capitalism’s serial killing of workers

By Ivan Zelensky, Liva

August 28: Seventeen workers at the Altufyevo printing plant in Moscow, one of whom was only 16 years old, died in a fire yesterday morning. They were from Russia and Kyrgyzstan. According to RIA Novosti, they lived on the fourth floor of the factory building, and probably suffocated in their sleep. However, according to the publication Vesti.Ru, the only way out of the room in case of fire was cut off, and the emergency exit on the third floor was barred. That is, these women had no way out of the building.

Friends and family mourn the deaths of 17 women workers from Central Asia
following a fire at a Moscow factory building.

According to published information, Gospozhnadzor [Russian State Fire Control Agency] checked the printing plant in 2012 — and then the authorities allegedly had no claims against its owners. The next visit was scheduled to take place in 2015, but official reports showed there had not yet been a new check. According to firefighters, a lamp exploded in the warehouse — but printing workers say that in fact it was a huge three-meter lamp from Soviet times. After all, modern LED lights do not explode. The burned warehouse and printing houses are owned by “Printing Express,” which includes a number of small businesses, and the address listed on the printer’s website — Altufevskoe Highway, Building 5 — coincides with the location of the burned building.

According to official data, the Moscow firm, which employed the slain people, is owned by businessman Sergey Moskvin. He wanted his small company to work effectively to bring in a little more money, so he could be at least a couple of rubles closer to the richest people in the country and around the world. Therefore, this efficient capitalist allowed 17 women to be killed, saving money by ignoring basic safety rules. Most likely, he’ll now sit in jail.* Although, if Moskvin had killed 90 miners at “Raspadskaya,” as Roman Abramovich did six years ago, or killed an average of one worker every week for 20 years, like Ukraine’s Yefim Zviagilskiy, he would probably remain at liberty like those untouchable capitalists.

The Moscow businessman openly mocked the dead women, who worked without contracts, 12 hours a day, for very little money, and lived right on the production site. However, it is quite possible that the investigation will find the “menace” among his subordinates — and the burden of guilt will fall on some storekeeper, who was not sufficiently demanding to replace the ill-fated lamp, or an elderly guard who closed the ill-fated fire escape, because he cannot prove that he did so on management’s orders.

Or maybe tomorrow a young woman from accounting will find herself  in jail, surprised to learn that she was liable to take the security precautions of a safety engineer. After all, this has already happened more than once in Russia in workplace accident cases. 

Deadly printing plant fire in Moscow killed 17 migrant workers.
However, we know that the killer who is responsible for the deaths of the Central Asian women is the owner of the printing house. After all, the owners order the managers to save money at the expense of workers’ safety. It’s the owners who require their employees to avoid labor protection and fire safety inspectors, or pay them a bribe. It’s the owners’ fault that the workers are employed in bestial conditions for mere pennies — and if they had survived the fire, most of these women could still expect a slow death from exhausting work and occupational diseases.

In fact, bosses turn workers into things, not really worrying if they break or deteriorate. And when “hard times” come to them – that is, when they have to buy a Mercedes instead of a Ferrari, or a Toyota instead of Mercedes — they see a way to save on workers’ safety.

You can say a lot about how Russian and Ukrainian bosses kill workers. You can wonder why many workers still believe that their interests coincide with the interests of their employers. You can — and should — think about how to stop the systematic killing for the sake of saving on labor protection. But all these discussions should start with one simple idea: the boss is a killer. And that’s the point.

Yesterday, August 27, in the Kirov district of St. Petersburg, a construction tower overturned with workers on it. At the time of the fall there were three people in the “cradle,” engaged in major repairs of a building’s sixth floor. All the workers were seriously injured and taken to the intensive care unit. It should be noted that on August 27 a storm warning was declared in the city — but, in spite of the strong wind, the workers were forced to perform work at that height.

*Translator’s note: On August 29, Russian and Kyrgyz media reported that a warrant had been issued for Moskvin’s arrest. His whereabouts are currently unknown.


Translated by Greg Butterfield

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