Rain seeps through cracks in the ceiling and spiders spin webs above vats of dough at Bread Factory No. 14, once the Filipov Bakery, whose raisin buns have been famous since czarist times.
Women and teenagers toil at open ovens, with no protective gloves or masks. They work in a rat-infested neighborhood and live in crowded dormitories.Managers of the 150-year-old bakery, one of 33 in Moscow, say they want to make improvements but are caught between the dissolving structure of Soviet Communism and a new economic order not yet formed.
The bakery's plight illustrates the difficulties Soviet businesses and workers face in converting from a centrally planned to a market economy.
Leonid Vorobyev, the bread factory's 47-year-old director, is trying to figure out how to fit into the plan the Soviet legislature adopted Oct. 19 for switching to a market economy.
He also is pondering how to attract foreign capital to modernize the bakery, how much to pay his workers and how much to charge his customers when prices are freed from their artificially low fixed levels.
Vorobyev is worried, and so are his employees.
In a stormy meeting with the workers, who demanded to know what their salaries and positions would be, he said, "Give me results and the money will be there."
The manager, who has been in the baking industry 25 years, said in an interview afterward, "We and they are afraid of a (free) market. What will it be like?"
Under current conditions, it's amazing the bakery produces anything edible.
Economic planner Tatiana Zimina said the 200 workers make 20 tons of baked goods daily, using worn-out equipment 20 years old. There are 19 varieties, from white bread to the famous raisin rolls.
Rats that infest the neighborhood are attracted by the aroma of baking bread and by flour spilled on the floor.
Bakery workers, 70 percent of whom are women, have no machines for moving sugar, margarine and flour from heavy steel vats to the mixers, so they do it by hand.
Those who work the unsealed ovens have the worst job.
Blasts of hot air pound their face women, some with scars from burns on their arms and hands, slit the tops of molded loaves with knives and slide them into the ovens on trays.
Because of the difficult conditions, pay averaging $324 a month, and a six-day week, the bakery has trouble attracting workers and is 40 people short. Most employees are older women or teenagers.
A vacant apartment building next to Bread Factory No. 14 looks as if it had been bombed or is in the process of being razed, with broken glass, dirt and plaster piled knee-deep on the floors.
In August, a construction crew digging nearby cut a natural gas pipeline, forcing the bakery to shut down for a few days.
Vorobyev and his fellow managers want to hire their own drivers, bypassing unreliable state truckers, and are negotiating with foreign companies to renovate the plant.
They also are negotiating with the Soviet bureaucracy to improve working conditions and keep more of the profit, most of which now goes to government ministries. Workers got pay raises in September.
Zimina said her goal is for the workers to own the factory.
"We dream about privatization," she said but added that bureaucrats stand in the way.
The Russian republic's government approved private ownership of many factories in September, but the bread ministry later excluded large bakeries, including Factory No. 14.
Another difficult problem is changing the psychology of workers, many of whom seem disinterested in increasing production or streamlining the operation.