[Pga_europe_process] Report

Andrej Grubacic zapata at sezampro.yu
Wed Jun 9 02:05:40 CEST 2004

 A group of activist from DSM! network were greeted today by 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 not 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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