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Disgruntled Workers Take Over Montenegrin Aluminum Plant

KAP Chairman Vyacheslav Krilov after an April 30 meeting
PODGORICA -- Hundreds of disgruntled workers have taken over an administrative building at Montenegro's Podgorica Aluminum Plant (KAP) to protest the planned layoff of dozens of workers, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

But KAP Chairman Vyacheslav Krilov said after emergency talks with Montenegrin Economy Minister Branko Vujovic today that the company's restructuring plan and reduction of workers would be postponed until the adoption of a new collective agreement with the workers' unions had been adopted.

"I hope and I am convinced that we will find a solution and sign a joint protocol," Krilov said.

Vujovic also held talks with representatives of KAP's majority shareholder, the EN+ Group -- which is owned by Russian billionaire businessman Oleg Deripaska -- in a bid to resolve the crisis.

KAP, Montenegro's top exporter, was acquired by the EN+ Group in 2005 but has fallen on hard times since the global economic crisis slashed the demand for metals.

KAP management has said about 2,500 of the company's 4,000 workers need to be laid off for the company to stay in business.

On April 29, workers gathered at the plant's gates and prevented Krilov from entering the plant. Company security guards prevented some of the workers from physically attacking Krilov, who is Russian.

The workers then forced their way into KAP's administrative building, smashing several windows. No one was reported injured.

The employees then demanded that the government of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who negotiated the KAP sale directly with Deripaska, take over management of the factory.

Krilov said at a news conference on April 29 that the layoffs are in line with Montenegrin law and were prompted by the workers' refusal -- on the advice of the unions -- to sign new work contracts.

Vujovic said before the talks that some of the layoffs might have been against the law.

The management has declined to reveal the number of people who have been laid off. Union leaders say about 200 workers have received notices in the last two days.