Interview with a Zastava Elektro Worker and Freedom Fight Activist

   

by Freedom Fight (FF)

On May 25, 2009 in the city of Raca, near Kragujevac in Serbia, a new wave of protests has been unleashed by workers of the Zastava Elektro factory. The factory produces electrical goods and is the only remaining enterprise in Raca that continues to function to this day. The workers began their protests with marches and more recently by seizing the municipal council building. For the last few days, the workers have been standing guard occupying the council building in shifts.

We talk to Milan Sreckovic, a Zastava Elektro worker and Freedom Fight activist, who explains the situation in his own words:

“Zastava Elektro was privatized in 2006 and handed over to a consortium of private stakeholders headed by Ranko Dejanovic, the husband of the current president of the Serbian Parliament Slavica Djukic Dejanovic and a one-time founder of JUL’s Raca chapter.*

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Establishing a Coordinating Committee for Workers Protests in Serbia

   

by Freedom Fight (FF)

The Strike Committees of Zastava Elektro, Srbolek, Sinvoz and BEK have established a joint Coordinating Committee for workers Protests in Serbia, with the aim of struggling in solidarity with one another against the closure of our factories and the preservation of our jobs.

We call on all Strike Committees in Serbia to jointly find a way of preserving our jobs, for a way to survive. After 20 years of collapse, finding solutions to our problems certainly won’t be easy. It is precisely for this reason that we must immediately begin looking for them.

Throughout Serbia at the moment workers are organizing protests because their jobs and the survival of their families are threatened by the catastrophic state of industry. Despite their number and frequency, these workers initiatives still don’t have the power to affect significant change, while their temporary successes are exclusively reduced to securing the paying-out of severances and wages. We believe that such outcomes fail to address the source of the problem that workers in Serbia face. In order to keep our jobs broader changes are needed in the state and in society.

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A Photo Essay on Factory Blockades and a Privatization Tragedy

   

by Freedom Fight (FF)

Privatization of Zrenjanin’s Sinvoz, a railcar manufacturing and repair plant, began in 1990, as required by the Law on Social Capital.  By 1993, when privatization efforts were suspended due to hyperinflation, the Sinvoz workers had acquired 14% of shares in the company.

In 2004, privatization was reinitiated under the new Law on Privatization. Sinvoz workers and retirees held 30% of company shares, while the state sold the remaining 56% to Nebojsa Ivkovic, who personally attended the share auction. At the time of the share auction, Sinvoz employed approximately 870 people.

As per an agreement with the Privatization Agency, Ivkovic was obligated to invest further in Sinvoz, with further ownership shares being dependent on such investment. Ivkovic “fulfilled” this contractual obligation in 2005 by arguing that five mothballed steam locomotives purchased for scrap metal were in fact an investment in Sinvoz’s basic operation, netting him a 76% ownership share. Worker shareholders informed the Privatization Agency about the nature of Ivkovic’s “investment” (see photos below), and requested control over fulfillment of contractual obligations related to privatization. As a result of the worker-owners’ demands, the Agency sent several investigators to Sinvoz in the next two years, but their findings consistently found that investment was proceeding as per the privatization agreement.

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