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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8893b23.html [accessed 23 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 2,022,547
Capital: Skopje

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Dismissals: 3

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Anti-union discrimination continued, including dismissals, interference in union elections, and even attempts to break up enterprise-level union organisations. At least three journalists were dismissed for their trade union activities in response to the deterioration of media freedom, including the shutting down of some independent media outlets.

Background

Elections held on 5 June brought victory to the governing centre-right VMRO-DPMNE coalition and a new mandate to Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. The death of a young man during celebrations held in Macedonia Square after the parliamentary elections provoked a wave of public protests against police brutality which continued to be held every day until mid-July. Renewed demonstrations against police brutality took place in September. The policeman responsible for the death was removed from police duty and held in custody pending trial.

Several European human rights NGOs raised concerns over the deterioration of media freedom in the country. In a report published in October, the OSCE representative for freedom of the media considered that there were "worrying trends" concerning the media in Macedonia. It highlighted the lack of implementation of a "stable and professional legal framework" that could foster media freedom. The report also pointed out problems faced by journalists. A European Commission report on Macedonia also noticed that "the media continue to be subject to interference from political and business interests," stating that "intimidation of journalists and selective enforcement of legislation against media companies are increasing causes for concern". A number of key independent media outlets, including three dailies and one national TV station, were closed down in clearly targeted actions by the tax authorities for allegedly unpaid taxes, thus virtually eliminating criticism of the government from the press.

Trade union rights in law

A number of excessive restrictions apply despite basic trade union guarantees. The Labour Relations Act was amended in 2009, however some trade union organisations deplored the lack of social dialogue during the process and considered that some new provisions have a negative impact on trade union rights.

Furthermore, collective bargaining is restricted to the union representing 20% of the employees at the level it wishes to bargain, except at the state level where the union must represent 10% of the total labour force.

Concerning the right to strike, the Labour Relations Act gives employers the right to suspend up to 2% of the participants of a strike throughout its duration if they exhibit violent or "non-democratic" behaviour, a provision that can be widely abused.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Ineffective labour inspection despite new laws: According to a report published in November 2011 by SOLIDAR, an NGO network advocating social justice, changes to the law on labour inspection strengthened the rights of workers and the competences of inspectors. Labour inspectors should respond to every request from a worker to carry out an inspection in the company. Ineffective labour inspection is not due to weaknesses in the law, therefore, but rather to labour inspectorates that do not or cannot function effectively. The main problem is the small number of labour inspectors, while another important factor is the political influence on the body which distorts its impartial and proper functioning.

Anti-union discrimination: Pressure and mobbing are commonly used against trade union members and representatives. While the law prohibits anti-union discrimination, anti-union dismissals exist in practice, and dismissal cases usually take two to three years to resolve in court. In addition to the inefficiencies of the labour inspectorate, distrust of the legal system has increased in recent years as a result of stronger political control. Some companies have allegedly tried to interfere in trade union elections, or even break up enterprise level trade union organisations.

Some positive progress despite marginalisation of social dialogue:

The criteria for the representative participation of social partners in bipartite and tripartite social dialogue were finally implemented, and the trade unions began signing collective agreements in the public sector. However, both bipartite and tripartite social dialogue remains weak, with insufficient participation of the social partners in policy development processes.

According to the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia (CCM) and the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Macedonia (KSS), the two representative trade unions participating in it, the Social and Economic Council (SEC) established in 2010 at national level, is still being further developed. Social and Economic Councils have been established at local level with the participation of trade union representatives. There are three local SEC in Kumanovo, Strumica and Kavadarci, and ten more are being established in the larger municipalities.

Although the government took steps to address the excessive use of fixed term contracts in the civil service, which is illegal, a significant number of temporary positions remains.

On a positive note, thanks to a social partners' initiative, the Law on European Works Councils was adopted which gives workers the right to information and consultation and to participation in works councils on transnational issues and the promotion of social dialogue. Furthermore, for the first time since the country's independence, a law on the minimum wage was adopted and the minimum wage set. Furthermore, amendments were being made to the law on wages, including a 5% wage increase from December 2012.

Violations

Threatened with dismissal if they went on strike: The Union of Macedonian Air Traffic Controllers announced a strike for 19 September, after year long negotiations over pay and working conditions broke down. Prior to the announced strike, the union reported that the government issued threats to the air controllers, warning that they would be dismissed if they went on strike. The Macedonian Air Traffic Control Agency denied the union's claims.

Trade unionists dismissed in media: Tamara Causidis, President of the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM), was dismissed from the Alsat-M TV station on 9 August. The dismissal followed the protest organised by the SSNM in July against political and business influences in the Macedonian media. While the Labour Inspectorate decided the dismissal was procedurally in line with the law, Causidis stated it was based on a blank signature for dismissal, which the employer annexed to the labour contract thus dismissing her on a consensual basis and without a notice period. On 11 August, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, in a letter sent to Macedonian Foreign Minister, said she was alarmed by the sharp decline of media freedom and continued repression of the media and critical voices in the country, citing the dismissal of Causidis as a case in point. At the daily Utrinski Vesnik newspaper, in Skopje, two journalists were dismissed after taking part in a protest strike against collective redundancies announced in June 2011.

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