July 10, 2017 / 3:06 PM / a month ago

Serbian PM urges workers at Fiat plant to end strike

BELGRADE, July 10 (Reuters) - Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Monday urged workers at a local Fiat plant to end a strike which has entered its second week, saying the country could face a hit to economic output and jobs if the dispute drags on, the Tanjug news agency reported.

The carmaking joint venture based in the central Serbian city of Kragujevac is 67 percent owned by Fiat and 33 percent by the state, with production accounting for 3 percent of Serbia's economic output and around 8 percent of exports.

The plant, which employs around 2,400 people, manufactured 100,000 cars a year in 2015. Last year, the venture cut jobs with a mix of voluntary and compulsory redundancies and reduced daily production shifts from three to two.

The strike started late last month as workers demanded better wages and a reduced workload. Unions said they unsuccessfully sought negotiations with management.

Brnabic told workers on Monday that Fiat does not negotiate with striking workers and that they had violated an agreement between the union and Fiat by starting the strike.

"We have lost a lot, workers lost wages for days while on strike, Fiat lost production, ... Serbia is daily losing on its economic output and exports," Tanjug quoted Brnabic as saying.

Fiat management in Serbia could not immediately be reached for comment.

"It will be very difficult for us in the future to bring new investors when there is no certainty that workers will honour contracts between unions and employers," Brnabic was quoted as saying.

Serbia's economy is expected to grow around 3 percent this year. The country relies heavily on foreign investors, including Fiat which in May launched three redesigned versions of the 500L, a larger version of the Fiat 500 mini car. (Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Potter)

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