Two railway workers' unions on Monday staged a protest outside the Croatian Railway HZ Cargo company, demanding that the company's management resign over poor business results and planned lay-offs.

Some 70 protesters marched from Zagreb's central railway station to the offices of the AGIT and HZ Cargo companies in Heinzelova Street, where they stopped briefly, demanding that the companies' managements resign and that competent managers be appointed instead.

They also demanded that the existing collective agreement be expanded to include workers of the AGIT company, that AGIT's business unit Dom Express continue operating, and that its redundant workers be entitled to the same severance pay as that given to redundant HZ Cargo workers.

The AGIT company management plans to restructure the company and lay off 38 employees of the company's Dom Express unit. The unionists said that it was unacceptable to offer redundant workers the minimum severance pay, while severance packages in other HZ companies were in line with the collective agreement or redundant workers received stimulating severance packages.

Croatian Railway Workers Union leader Ivan Forgac warned that cargo transport had dropped from 17 million tonnes a year to less than 9 million tonnes and that the trend had been continuing even though in recent years global trade had seen a multifold increase.

Forgac said that the key problem was the fact that the state was not fulfilling its obligations regarding the upgrading and maintenance of the railway network, that the 1,700-kilometre network needed overhauling and that in the current conditions it was difficult to be competitive and make profit from passenger and commodity transport.

Another union leader, Zoran Marsic, warned that Dom Express, specialising in the transport of parcels, was about to be closed down and that its 38 employees would be declared redundant. They are being offered the minimum severance pay guaranteed by the law, equal to six average salaries, which is far less than severance packages in other HZ companies, which amount to HRK 120,000 if an employee is leaving of his or her own accord, or HRK 60,000 if they are declared redundant.

Marsic noted that Dom Express had a market and that railway companies in neighbouring countries had not cancelled parcel transport.

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