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(en) Serbia, Zrenjanin, Jugoremedija workers struggle

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 8 Aug 2004 05:29:14 +0200 (CEST)


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A group of activist from DSM! network met today more then a hundered
workers in occupied factory of "Jugoremedija" in the city of Zrenjanin.
I will try to sketch a historical background of this courageous struggle.
Namely, 280 of 357 workers of "Jugoremedija" have been on strike since
December 27th last year. Personal security of the director of
"Jugoremedija", Aleksandar Jovanovic, inflicted severe injuries on a number
of strikers. They even used trained dogs. One woman was badly injured, 2
women have dislocated arms and one worker received a blow to the head. In an
incredible scene, women workers had laied down infront of the security vans,
and defened their factory from the personal army of the director. Workers
had locked the factory and director cannot enter any more, while the
confused "security" had left the scene.

On May 18, 2004, the Privatization Agency finally did initiated the process
of cancelling the sales contract because it violates the law. The process
has begun because the guarantee conditions and contractual obligations were
not respected. All those responsible for the violations will be "brought to
justice" and the sale contract will be cancelled in court.

The company entered privatization in 2002, and was eventually bought by the
Macedonian Jaka 80.


According to the general manager of the company, the new owners "have been
facing obstruction since the very first day by shareholders and workers who
had obstructed the previous management as well, as some senior workers put
it."

"These are remnants of the communist self-management system in which workers
were allowed to meddle in everything" corporation PR said.

The workers who are "allowed to meddle in everything", and who even dared to
fight for their own factory, accused Radovanovic of harassing employees and
transferring them to harder jobs, because of which at the end of 2003 they
launched a general strike. In addition, they were displeased with their
collective contract and salaries.

Since the factory was closed for two weeks, Radovanovic made a deal with the
meddlesome strikers: he would reinstate the previous collective contract and
raise salaries by 12 percent.

But the problems did not end there. The new owner, Jovica Stefanovic,
entered the factory with security personnel on Jan. 1, 2004, and workers
barricaded themselves in the mess hall, where they stayed until the strike
ended.

At the time, Radovanovic called this "a rebellion, a state of anarchy and a
taking of the factory by force, which warrants intervention, which is why
professional security has been brought in, to guard it in the future as
well."

Jugoremedija has 4,357 shareholders, who last year received dividends
although they were rather small. This year they were supposed to receive a
total of 40 million dinars at an assembly scheduled for May 11, but the
meeting was postponed because of the arrival of the Securities Commission
representatives.


At an auction held on Sept. 9 2002, Jaka 80, in which Nis businessman Jovica
Stefanovic- a close friend of the former Prime Minister- has a majority
stake, bought 41.93 percent of Jugoremedija.

After a neck and neck race with the Ljubljana-based Lek, Jaka 80 eventually-
nobody know how- succeeded in buying the remaining portion of Jugoremedija`s
social-owned stock, initially priced at 175 million dinars, for 959.50
million dinars.

The contract obliged the buyer to invest 360 million dinars in the next 30
months, 50 percent of which within 24 months.


A leader of the rebellion ( or the representative of the group of small
shareholders, if u prefer) Zdravko Deuric, told "Clean Hands" that "The view
that we do not have an economic interest in Jugoremedija because we control
less than 10 percent of Jugoremedija is absolutely wrong. Our association
numbers over 2,200 people, and we control about 40 percent of the factory
which can easily be proven. Obviously, some other interests at work here".


That not everything was actually is in order was indicated at the end of May
by the Anti-Corruption Council, which announced that the buyer of
Jugoremedija, Jaka 80, had failed to meet its contractual obligations.


"The Serbian Share Fund should not have signed the contract before the bank
guarantee was presented, and should not have let the buyer into the company
before he met all his obligations," the Anti-Corruption Council said.

Workers are still in the factory. They will remain there until the process
of canceling the sales contract is finished. If there is no result this week
they will organize and come in buses to Belgrade. They have accepted to
participate in forthcoming PGA conference in Belgrade in July. Hopefully
with other workers from Serbia with whom they would like to start to discuss
a common plan of how to organize a collective struggle against
privatization.


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