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Two thousand Serbian FIAT workers take strike action

6 July, 2017 Workers at the factory of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Serbian subsidiary FCA Srbija in Kragujevac are on strike over excessive workload and low wages.

The strike began on Tuesday 27 June after two days of warning protests. Two thousand blue collar workers, representing 90 per cent of the workforce, have taken strike action to demand a small wage increase, paid overtime, an end to layoffs, a reorganization of work to cut workload, and compensation for transport costs for shifts that start or finish when there in no public transport.

The core issue is the intensification of work, and low wages. Last summer, a whole shift was laid off, but the volume of work stayed the same.

Workers took strike action after management refused to negotiate. IndustriALL has two affiliates at the factory, the Autonomous Metalworkers’ Union of Serbia (SSMS) and the Industry, Energy and Mining Workers’ Union, GS IER Nezavisnost. Both unions are taking action, coordinated through a join strike committee.

The strike is seen as a highly significant test of Serbian workers’ ability to resist the intensification of work, and win a decent living wage. Many European auto manufacturers have shifted production to Eastern Europe, where wages are low. FCA Srbija production workers earn about 400 Euros per month. Recently, Slovakian VW workers won a significant wage increase after taking strike action.

The factory is Serbia’s biggest export earner. It produces Fiat Punto and 500L cars. The factory has a production target of 440 cars per day, which means that the strike has already cost the company several thousand vehicles.

The general secretaries of IndustriALL Global and IndustriAll Europe, Valter Sanches and Luc Triangle, today wrote to the management of FCA, copying in the leaders of the Italian metal unions. They said:

“IndustriAll European Trade Union and IndustriALL Global Union fully back the workers’ strong decision to go on strike. Taking full account of this critical situation, it is imperative that FCA Group intervene immediately to put an end to the dispute.

“Therefore, we urge you to instruct your subsidiary representatives to operate in full cooperation with our members, SSMS and GS IER “Nezavisnost”, and to start negotiations with the strike committee without any further delay in view of finding a common beneficial solution.

“IndustriAll Unions are committed to the fight against precarious work and have been campaigning for more and better quality jobs throughout Europe. We thus stand in full solidarity with our members and FCA Srbija workers to strive for decent wages and working conditions.”

The FIAT workers have received solidarity messages from Volvo workers in Sweden, as well as other workers in the region. The leaders of the Italian unions at FIAT offered their support, saying that Serbian workers are correct to fight poor wages and intense working practices. The Italian unions are planning a solidarity visit to Serbia to show their support personally.

The strike committee’s demands are as follows:

  1. Increase the minimum wage per hour from 2 to 2,40 Euros (290 dinars);
  2. Improve production organization, and replace workers who are absent for maternity and paternity leave, or for long periods of illness;
  3. Recognize bonuses linked both to the achievement of efficiency goals and to the recognition of bronze and silver in World Class Manufacturing principles;
  4. Apply the collective bargaining agreement to both the transport allowance when working outside the standard working hours and no public transport is available (at night from 22.00 to 05.00).