Over 30,000 past or current employees of 29 companies are on strike at the moment, Serbia’s Alliance of Independent Unions reports.
As many as 8,300 are protesting unpaid wages, while around 5,000 are striking to demand overdue severance payments, the spokesperson for the union alliance, Mara Djordjevic, told Tanjug news agency.
Serbia has been facing a wave of strikes as workers express their dissatisfaction with government policies. This week's strikes have drawn in grain and raspberry farmers and workers from electrical goods factory Zastava Elektro, the Trudbenik construction company, Srbolek pharmaceutical company, Petrohemija chemical factory, Livnica factory, and a fruit and vegetable processing plant in the town of Titel.
Social tensions have reached a peak in the city of Nis. Workers' unions have announced that a series of mass strikes will be held in the city this autumn. The streets of the city have been blocked for days as workers from the Niteks textile factory and Gradjevinar construction company protest, demanding unpaid wages.
Additionally, some of the biggest companies in Serbia have announced, or conducted, extensive lay-offs, including: British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, US Steel, and the Petroleum Industry of Serbia - NIS.
The Alliance of Independent Unions sent an open letter on Thursday to President Boris Tadic, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic and Economics Minister Mladjan Dinkic. The letter notes that 5,000 to 6,000 workers have lost their jobs over the past several months.
In the letter, the unions demand that high state representatives take a public stand on the current situation of workers and concrete measures to prevent lay-offs.
They also demand that employers publicise reports that give reasons for redundancy decisions.
The president of Nezavisnost union, Branislav Canak, told daily Blic that strikes are the wrong way for workers to fight for their rights. Instead, he suggested taking the example of modern trade unions which, he said, are solving their problems through negotiations.
The government's working group to address the current economic crisis and prevent strikes met on Wednesday to discuss draft measures developed by the Labour and Social Policy Ministry.
Earlier, Labour Minister Rasim Ljajic told Beta news agency that the new measures are mostly related to such issues as overdue wages and problems in privatised companies.
He believes that the government measures, which will be ready by August 19, should stop the further radicalisation of protests and prevent others altogether.