Demonstrators Force Way into Parliament With AM-Soviet Unrest, Bjt
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Thousands of workers from Yugoslavia’s largest rubber and shoe plant forced their way into the Federal Parliament on Wednesday, demanding changes in the government and protesting low living standards. They later were evicted.
In an action unprecedented in Communist Yugoslavia’s postwar history, about 4,000 demonstrators clashed with security police in front of the Parliament building. Police were unable to keep them from entering.
The protesters filled the main lobby of the domed building for about half an hour before security men forced them to leave.
There were no injuries reported from the brief scuffle. Uniformed police used only their hands to keep the demonstrators away from passers-by.
About 5,000 demonstrators, representing more than 10,000 strikers of the Borovo plant, traveled from Borovo, about 60 miles west of Belgrade. They began arriving in the capital overnight.
They demanded a 100 percent pay increase and changes in the government’s economic austerity program and national leadership.
The workers said their average monthly wage is about $62.50. The monthly salary of an average Yugoslav is about $120.
The demonstrators called for the resignation of Foreign Trade Minister Nenad Krekic. He was director of the plant two years ago, and workers blame him for their plight now.
After being evicted, the protesters waited for more than seven hours in front to the Parliament in 100-degree heat to hear from Ivo Latin, a member of the republic of Croatia presidency.
Latin pleaded with them to return to Borovo, where he said negotiations to resolve the problems would resume.
But the workers booed Latin, who could not continue his speech. They demanded talks with Premier Branko Mikulic.
The workers left Belgrade for Borovo by buses and trucks shortly after midnight Wednesday, ending about 24 hours of demonstrating in the capital.
The official Tanjug news agency said that Parliament was consulting high- ranking state and party leaders, including President Raif Dizdarevic and Communist Party President Stipe Suvar, to try to find a solution to the workers’ problems.
Mikulic said he would be ready to address the demonstrators ″in a few days in Borovo,″ Tanjug said.
More than 10,000 workers at the plant, which employs at least 23,000 people, went on strike Saturday in what is believed to be one of the largest work stoppages in the country since it became communist.
It was the latest in a series of protests by workers voicing their dissatisfaction with the govermnent’s austerity program allowing substantial price increases and hefty wage cuts.
The austerity measures, introduced in May, linked wages to productivity to try to cut inflation, currently hovering at about 175 percent, and to improve overall economic performance.
Yugoslav officials insist there is no other alternative to the program, made in conjuction with the International Monetary Fund, if the country wants to pay off its $21 billion foreign debt.
The program also lifted price controls for about 60 percent of goods and services that were under a price freeze since November.
The action resulted in huge price increases in June when inflation reached a record 21.1 percent, resulting in a further drop in living standards that have fallen by at least one-third since 1980.
In addition to a 100 percent pay increase, the workers are demanding a 30 percent reduction of the plant’s administration, better working condition and full payment of their June wages.
″They promised us everything except the pay hike which is our main demand,″ a Borovo worker, Zorica Radic, told The Associated Press.
More than 10,000 people demonstrated Tuesday in Vukovar, about three miles south of Borovo, chanting ″Down with the government 3/8″ and demanidng higher wages, witnesses said.
Yugoslavia registered a record 1,600 strikes last year, involving 300,000 workers. Most of the work stoppages were staged inside factory gates.