BELGRADE (Reuters) – Workers from automaker Stellantis’ Serbian plant blocked the main highway in the capital Belgrade on Wednesday to protest planned layoffs as part of a switch to producing electric vehicles.
Last month, the company offered some of its 2,000 workers at its Serbian plant a choice between moving abroad for two years to re-train in electric car production, or taking redundancy – a move that was opposed by unions.
The offer came after Serbia and Stellantis in April agreed a deal of over 190 million euros ($199.79 million) for the carmaker to produce electric vehicles at the industrial city of Kragujevac. Serbia is investing 48 million euros in the plant.
Some 300 workers, led by union activists, brought the main highway in Belgrade to a standstill on Wednesday, saying they opposed the choice given to them and that the government should offer severance packages or job options for those laid off.
“If they (the government) have 48 million euros for the foreigners, they have far less money that is needed to cover us until we find other jobs,” said Zoran Miljkovic, a union activist.
A Serbia-based company spokesman declined to comment.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ana Brnabic on Tuesday criticized the workers for protesting instead of holding talks.
“I don’t understand what they are looking for on the street, instead of in the government,” she told reporters.
Serbia’s Stellantis plant in Kragujevac is among the country’s top exporters.
(Fixes typo in paragraph 2 and dropped word ‘the’ in last paragraph)