IMF mission visits Yugoslavia

IMF News, 10 November 2000

It will take time to solve the problems, but people and trade unions are doing incredible work to rebuild their society.

YUGOSLAVIA: An IMF mission visited Yugoslavia in early November to look into the trade union situation there since the new government came to power, and in particular to show vital support to the metalworkers of the independent and fast-growing trade union Nezavisnost.

After almost ten years of hard work in a difficult, repressive climate, it is clear that Nezavisnost is becoming very popular among Yugoslav workers. The union confederation, founded in 1991 by journalists and metalworkers, today has 192,000 members. The metalworkers' section has 39,000. Many of these trade union members, however, are out of work and unable to pay union dues. With the 1999 war and subsequent economic sanctions, many companies cannot function for the lack of basic, essential materials needed for production systems, and unemployment remains high. Of the 400,000 metalworkers in Serbia, only 150,000 have jobs.

The IMF mission was able to visit three of the metal companies in which Nezavisnost has members:

Although it is still not easy for Nezavisnost to organise in these companies, the situation is improving, and every day workers in new plants are joining the union.

Marcello Malentacchi, IMF general secretary, who participated in the mission, said it would take time to clean up the problems facing Yugoslavia. People in the factories and trade unions are doing incredible work to build up a new society after decades of dictatorship and repression, he declared. Malentacchi believed that the Stability Pact for the Balkans, a reconstruction plan launched by the European Union after the 1999 war, if implemented and followed up by investment for production in industrial activities, would be a good instrument to help the country get back to normal. The Pact would also help in finding a solution to the question of Kosovo.

Although the IMF will continue to keep in touch with all unions in Yugoslavia, and push for the democratic transformation of the old ones, it is expected that assistance to Nezavisnost for structural and organisational purposes, coordinated by the IMF, will be forthcoming.