Updated: Saturday, 15 February 2014 02:50 | By Agence France-Presse

Legendary Sarajevo hotel closed for first time in 30 years

A legendary hotel in Sarajevo, built for the 1984 Olympic Games and the main shelter for reporters covering the war in the 1990s, shut its doors Friday for the first time after staff went on strike.


Legendary Sarajevo hotel closed for first time in 30 years

Workers of Sarajevo's legendary hotel "Holiday Inn" gather during a protest and strike in the hotel's lobby, on February 14, 2014 - by Elvis Barukcic

Some 140 staff at the "Holiday Inn" hotel, a symbol of the Bosnian capital, walked off the job demanding their salaries and social taxes be paid.

The stoppage came a week after the country was rocked by violent protests against poverty and a weak economy.

"We will not resume work until we receive (our pay) arrears. We are waiting here," one employee told AFP, asking not to be named for fear of "reprisals from the management."

The strikers occupied the lobby of the hotel, while reception was closed to all except departing guests.

Employees said they had not received their last three paychecks, while health and social insurance has not been paid for last three years.

Hotel manager Senadin Fetahagic admitted the arrears but blamed the economic crisis for the difficulties. 

"The number of guests fell in last several years. This is a hotel where mostly businessmen stay and fewer of them are coming because of the crisis," Fetahagic said.

The hotel, which has not been part of the international chain since 2013, was heavily bombed by Serb forces during the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, but was reconstructed after the war.

It was sold in 2003 to Austrian Alpha Baumanagement for 22.8 million euros ($31.2 million).

Last week, thousands of protesters, angry over the worsening economy in the country where the jobless rate is 44 percent, ransacked and torched government buildings in several Bosnian towns, including the presidency building in Sarajevo.

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