CEOL
Bosnian Serbs on first ever general strike

BANJA LUKA, Jul 2, 2000 -- (AFP) Bosnian Serbs went on a warning general strike Friday, the first ever in Bosnia's Serb entity, the Federation of Trade Unions said, although it could not give an exact figure on the response.

The strike was held between 2:00 p.m. (1200 GMT) and 3:00 p.m. (1300 GMT), Cedo Volas, the head of the Republika Srpska's Federation of Trade Unions (SSRS), told journalists adding that the SSRS would give the precise number of workers who went on strike later Friday.

Several trade unions opposed the strike, but Volas claimed some trade unions' leaders had been manipulated by the government.

"Workers are those who support" the SSRS' call for the strike, Volas said.

The SSRS is demanding better wages, protection of the unemployed and a social program.

Economics experts in the Republika Srpska (RS) put the unemployment rate there at more than 50 percent and warn that dozens of thousands could lose their job as privatization's continue.

In May, the average salary in the RS was 275 German marks (138 dollars/euros), while the bureau for statistics estimates that two salaries are needed to cover the basic needs of a four-member family.

The RS social security fund warned in February that about 300,000 people were in need of social help, a burden that the state cannot support.

Some 130,000 people are already receiving social help across the RS, out of an estimated population of 1.4 million.



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