Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic thinks that “a serious bad intention” was behind a strike at Fiat’s plant in Kragujevac, central Serbia.

She told state broadcaster RTS that there was “a political interest” behind it as well, and that workers were “being manipulated.”

Brnabic dismissed the claims of the leader of the strike committee, who said the Serbian government was not communicating with them.

“We entered into this most sincerely, to be there for the strike committee and the workers and find a solution that would be a victory for all of us. We did not manage to find it,” the prime minister said.

She added that the new government has been working, since it was elected, to solve the problem of the strike at Fiat, and that she was constantly in touch with representatives of the committee, who have been able to come to her “whenever they wanted.”

Brnabic then stated that “her chief of staff alone” had “23 conversations with the president of the strike committee, Zoran Markovic,” and that she, too, met with them – but that Markovic would then issue statements saying there was “no communication with the government.”

“Is the intention to blame the government? Is the intention to tell the workers that the government is not there for them? I went into it with clean and clear intentions,” she said, adding, “that’s that noise in the communication.”

Brnabic recalled that the strike began on June 27, while her cabinet was elected on June 28.

“Why would somebody start a strike when there’s not even a caretaker government?,” Brnabic asked.

The prime minister went on to say that wages at Fiat in Kragujevac are being paid regularly, and, with additional payments, range between 42,000-43,000 Serbian dinars (EUR 348-356).

She explained that Fiat began negotiating on a collective agreement with workers on June 9, although it is due to expire in December this year, and that the unions left the negotiations on June 21.

They then embarked on the strike, Brnabic said – “at a time when the Serbian government was in the Assembly, and therefore they had no one to talk to.”

The prime minister stated that the demand now is to increase wages to 45,000 dinars (EUR 373) and pay out 20,000 dinars to every worker.

According to her – “this would mean taking away from others, for example from those in Crna Trava who earn 28,000 dinars (EUR 232) in order to give more to Fiat workers.”

Brnabic asked “what option B would be,” and added: “To play Russian roulette with Fiat, so we end up with not even the 42,000, but with zero, both the subcontractors and others.”

The prime minister also said that she wanted to address the workers directly, and that the unions responded by saying they were “radical” – but repeated that she was “nevertheless ready to go to Kragujevac.”