Workers of Fiat plant in Serbia protest layoffs

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Serbia recently announced the closure of its manufacturing plant in Kragujevac which directly employs more than 2,000 workers

June 06, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Fiat workers Serbia
Fiat factory in Kragujevac. (Photo: Bjoertvedt via Masina)

Workers of Fiat automotive company in Kragujevac, Serbia, organized a protest on Thursday, June 2, against layoffs announced by the management. The protest forced the management to suspend work at the factory for the first shift on Thursday. All the workers of the plant joined the protest which was called by a coordination of trade unions in response to the management’s decision to lay off around 1,541 workers after giving them a severance pay while the rest would be relocated to Fiat plants in other parts of Europe. Currently, the government interlocutors are holding talks with the Fiat management. The unions have announced that if there is no progress in the talks till June 7, they will go for more protests including strikes.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Serbia is a joint venture of Stellantis Italy (67%) and the government of Serbia (33%). Its plant in Kragujevac directly employs more than 2,000 workers and has been primarily involved in the production of Fiat 500L cars. Recently, the management announced that the plant would o be closed down and refurbished in order to shift towards production of new model electric cars by 2024 as the Fiat 500L model is deemed as outdated and its demand and production have considerably declined. As part of this plan, the company announced severance pay of 4,000 euros (USD 4,287.20) to many of the employees while the rest would be sent to Stellantis’ factories abroad for two years. Trade unions and workers at the plant vehemently opposed this proposal by the management and decided to protest.

Masina reported that Fiat workers and representatives of all trade unions in the company signed a memorandum with their demands and sent it to Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic seeking immediate intervention to resolve their grievances. In their memorandum, the workers demanded that referral to work abroad should be carried out under the laws of the Republic of Serbia and that workers must be guaranteed work upon their return to the country. They also demanded that workers who enter a redundancy program must be compensated in accordance with the amount paid when the third shift at the plant was shut down in 2016.

Zoran Miljkovic, chairman of the Fiat strike committee, told Masina that “the state must help the workers, it cannot put us in a different plan while giving foreign investors money. The state as co-owner of the company can absolutely participate in the social program and support us and protect us from getting fired – it is a lie that they cannot do so.”

The Party of the Radical Left (PRL) in Serbia expressed solidarity with the Fiat workers and stated that “PRL stands with Fiat workers in the fight against the arrogance of the employers and the negligence of the government. No one should be forced to abandon their friends and family in order to provide bare survival.”