Railway strike hits Bosnian industries

A railway workers’ strike in Bosnia’s Serb region threatened to hurt the country’s metal and chemical industries, disrupting vital supplies of ore and feedstock for the third time in seven months.

Cargo traffic in the Serb Republic slowed on Monday and came to a complete halt on Wednesday after workers went on strike over unpaid wages and the firing of several union members by the Republika Srpska Railways.

The government has insisted that rail traffic should be kept at a minimum capacity until a solution is found, but unions said they would restore it once their conditions were met.

The new strike has caused problems to ArcelorMittal in north-western Prijedorm. The iron ore miner, which is owned by steel giant ArcelorMittal said it might be unable to meet its obligations to customers.

General Manager Mladen Jelaca said that “Our daily deliveries of 6,000 tonnes of iron ore for steel mills that we supply are brought into question, and the damage would be mutual, amounting to millions of Bosnian marka.”

Bosnia’s sole alumina plant, Birac, majority owned by Lithuania’s Ukio Bank Investment Group said that it would have to pay penalties because of overdue alumina supplies and that a strike might endanger its long-term contracts.

It urged that at least a minimum cargo traffic be restored, allowing it to supply KAP, the sole aluminium smelter in neighboring Montenegro and the major consumer of its alumina, a vital material for the production of aluminium.

Global Ispat Coke Industry Lukavac based in the northern town of Tuzla, also warned it would soon run out of coking coal unless the strike ends.

Bosnia’s industrial output increased 3.2% year on year in April, driven mainly by stronger activity in THE manufacturing, metal processing and energy sectors, indicating a recovery from negative trends caused by the global economic crisis.

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