The government is investigating a Russian-owned bauxite plant after a surprise inspection last week found "disturbing" working conditions.

Social Protection Minister Simona Broomes said some staff had to work for 12 hours in poorly ventilated rooms without safety gear or drinking water. The surprise inspection came after dozens of workers wrote to the ministry complaining of working conditions.

United Company Rusal officials did not return telephone calls for comment Saturday. Broomes said company managers pledged to make improvements but the government will present them with a formal complaint next week.

The company and authorities have been feuding since 50 plant workers were fired more than five years ago. Workers also complain about the lack of upward mobility and the company's reluctance to recognize a labor union.