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Montenegrin Steel Worker Unions Reject Layoff Plan

Workers at Niksic steel mill held a warning labor stoppage in November.
Workers at Niksic steel mill held a warning labor stoppage in November.
NIKSIC, Montenegro -- The trade unions of Montenegro's troubled Niksic steel mill have rejected a management plan to lay off 1,385 workers and then rehire several hundred of them, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

Montenegrin media outlets have reported that the management's plan envisages a minimum payment of 15,000 euros ($19,000) for each laid-off worker.

The plan would reportedly also set aside 8 million euros for worker loans.

Additionally, management planned to increase the company's minimum wage to 125 euros per week, rehire 150 young workers, and contribute some 800,000 euros to the company's housing fund.

But the trade unions were adamant in rejecting the plan.

"We will not even consider the management's offer," said Janko Vucinic, the president of the confederation of trade unions.

Vucinic said the two sides should talk but on the basis of the trade unions' proposal, which seeks severance payments for those laid off ranging from 13,000 euros for those who worked for 10 years to 43,000 euros for those who have worked 40 years.

He said those were only proposals and that through negotiations "we can reach a sum that is acceptable to both sides."

The Niksic steel plant is owned by Dutch-registered Montenegro Specialty Steels (MNSS). It has struggled since the break-up of Yugoslavia and faced financial problems after it was sold to MNSS in 2004 by Russia's Midland company.

Niksic has a population of some 58,000 people and is Montenegro's second-largest city.