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Serbia - Redundancies at Le Belier foundry

KIKINDA - Around 100 workers at the Le Belier spare partsfoundry in Kikinda have been made redundant as a result of the world financial crisis.

Because of the crisis, Europeans are buying fewer cars, which has led to reduced output and less orders at the Le Belier plant.

Sadly, redundancies are a reality, says Vladimir Kubet, the president of the Le Belier independent trade union. He adds that the majority of those made redundant were contract workers.

“The atmosphere is quite tense. We hope the worst is over. Because, in the last month, about 150 people have had to leave. 90 percent of them were contractors, but the other 10 percent were full-time staff,” says Kubet.

Jelena Radosavljević, Le Belier’s public relations manager in Kikinda, says that the foundry depends directly on export to Europe, which consequently makes it vulnerable to the crisis there.

The problem is that big companies like Opel, Peugeot and Mercedes are scaling down production because of the falling demand on the market.

“As soon as the payment system is in crisis, people’s buying power falls, which, in turn, leads to a drop in car sales, which, in turn, leads to big car manufacturers, who are our main clients, reducing output and their orders to us,” Radosavljević explains.

“That's why we have been forced to restructure and resort to unpopular redundancies,” she adds.

National Employment Bureau Director Vladimir Ilić says that he was not aware of the redundancies at Le Belier. He claims that the unemployment rate in Serbia has fallen in the last three years. Serbia today has 433,000 unemployed, almost half the figure of two years ago, says Ilić.

“It’s not a matter of the effects and their extent on individual companies. What we’re interested in are global trends. In certain cases, some Serbian companies will feel the impact, particularly those linked to the markets affected, but others won’t,” he says.

However, economist Danilo Šuković told that there would be more redundancies if the crisis continued.

Comments such as those that Serbia would draw benefits from this financial crisis, Šuković pointed out, echoed similar forecasts in the early Nineties when Serbia was under sanctions, and when certain politicians said that isolation would play into the country’s hands.

“As things happened in Kikinda, every company behaves rationally. First there are staff cuts. You’re not going to sell off your machines or buildings,” he said.

The economist believes that Serbia has more than the 400,000 unemployed quoted by the National Employment Bureau.

He explained that methodology for measuring the unemployment rate had been altered, with the new methodology not showing the exact number of people without work.

Šuković predicts that unemployment will be even higher once the public companies have been fully privatized.

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