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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Bosnia and Herzegovina

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 - Bosnia and Herzegovina, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd88961c.html [accessed 20 August 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: 3,760,000
Capital: Sarajevo

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

Injuries: 1
Dismissals: 17

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

The right to organise is seriously limited in practice, and employers use different types of pressure and intimidation to prevent the workers from joining a union. Legal protection is inefficient, and the unemployment rate is among the highest in Europe, so the workers often tolerate violations of their rights because they don't want to lose their job. Unlawful dismissals of trade union members and shop stewards continue.

Background

Bosnia and Herzegovina was run by a caretaker government for 14 months after the October 2010 elections until the formation of a new government was eventually agreed at the end of December 2011. The implementation of much needed reforms, as well as progress in accession to the EU remained hampered by political polarisation along ethnic lines, affecting all levels of the country's complicated system of government. Above all, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains deeply divided between the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serb dominated Republika Srpska, which in April 2011 considered calling a referendum on whether to continue cooperation with the country's war crimes tribunal.

Trade union rights in law

Despite recent improvements, excessive restrictions on trade union rights figure in several areas of the law. Registering a trade union is cumbersome, as the time limits prescribed in the legislation are very short and exceeding the limitations may even lead to dissolution of the organisation. Furthermore, the authorities have the right to reject a request for union registration, and a trade union can be dissolved by the authorities if it has failed to convene its assembly. The right to strike in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is seriously undermined by the requirement to ensure "production maintenance" during strikes. The union and the employer must agree on this at least ten days before the strike is due to start, which effectively gives the employers discretionary powers to prohibit lawful strike action.

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

In practice

Anti-union employers: There are serious obstacles to exercising the right to organise, especially in the private sector, with numerous violations of trade union rights in practice. Newly established private companies, including multinationals in the retail sector, are using various types of pressure and intimidation to prevent workers from organising. The high unemployment rate is among the underlying causes of massive violations of trade union rights by employers, in both the private and public sectors. As employers can easily find new workers, those in employment often put up with a degradation of their rights. Dismissals of trade union officials and reprisals for organising strikes are not infrequent. As the right to sick and maternity leave is often not respected, with labour contracts often being unlawfully terminated because of pregnancy, female workers are especially vulnerable. At the same time, legal protection mechanisms do not function properly, due to a large backlog of cases, lengthy and expensive court procedures, widespread corruption and the problematic implementation of court decisions. Labour inspection is also weak and insufficient. As a result, when faced with problems in organising, workers often give in to the pressure exerted by employers. Cases of violations of trade union rights are rarely taken to court.

Restrictions on trade union registration: In 2008, the Confederation of Trade Unions of Republika Srpska (SSRS) filed a request with the RS Ministry of Labour and Disability Protection to amend the Book of Rules on the registration of trade union organisations. According to the rules, only presidents of trade union organisations may be registered; and only if they have an open-ended employment contract. As a consequence, many companies cannot establish trade unions, as there are no workers with open-ended contracts. SSRS therefore asked that workers with fixed term contracts be given the right to be registered in the Register of Trade Union Organisations and enjoy special protection. However, this amendment has not been implemented.

Violations

Dismissed for joining the union: After the creation of a branch of the Metalworkers' and Miners' Union of Republika Srpska at the metal pipe plant Unis, in Derventa, on 10 February, management dismissed 13 union members with open-ended contracts over the following three months, and did not extend fixed-term contracts for a further 12 members. The grounds given for their dismissals were unsatisfactory work performance, although some of those dismissed had worked for the company for more than 30 years. Dismissed unionists reported that they were openly told by the plant director that the reason for their dismissal was union organising. Žika Vidić, President of the company union, avoided dismissal due to his position as a union official, but was instead demoted from mechanical engineer to technician and was sent on six-months' compulsory leave. On 18 May the Labour Inspectorate of the Republika Srpska (RS) ordered 13 workers to be reinstated. The Ministry of Labour and Veteran Protection of RS confirmed the decision on 14 June. Instead of complying with the decision, the employer began court proceedings against the Ministry, but the District Court in Doboj ruled against the employer. At the end of the year the dismissed unionists had still not been reinstated.

Coal miners pressured into leaving union: Management at the RMU Đurđevik coal mine, a subsidiary of public electric utility Elektroprivreda BiH, exercised pressure against the organisation of a new trade union. Said Muhić, Halid Bajrić, Samir Hodžić and Avdija Klanjac, who initiated union organising, were sent on two-weeks' compulsory leave on 26 April. Although the new Workers' Trade Union of RMU Đurđevik was eventually registered on 17 August, and affiliated to the Trade Union of Coal Mine Workers of BiH the day after, 50 out of 350 members had left the union before end of the month due to constant pressure from management. The workers have appealed for protection of their trade union rights to 11 different state institutions, including the Ministry of Justice of FBiH and the BiH Ombudsman for Human Rights.

Trade union leader dismissed in public company:

Vernes Buljugija, President of the Railroad Engineer Trade Union of the BiH Federation was suspended from work on 9 August because of repeated statements by him in the media about violations of the law at the publicly owned Railways of BiH, including non-payment of wages and violations of the collective agreement. His suspension was officially due to the unauthorised leaking of confidential information. Buljugija stated that everything he had said was already publicly accessible through court verdicts and audit reports. After an unlawful work stoppage in support of Buljugija on 10 August, trade union leaders Jasmin Kurić, Mirsad Husković and Hasib Topalović were also suspended. Following the required consent of the Minister of Work and Social Policy of BiH, all four trade unionists were dismissed on 28 September. They subsequently went on hunger strike. On 3 December, the Municipal Court of Sarajevo confirmed that Buljugija had not leaked confidential information and ordered him to be returned to work.

The Trade Union of Railway Workers of BiH, operating in the same company, reported on interference in trade union activities by management. The union lost 300 members as a result of constant pressure on them to renounce their membership. Management refused to deduct union membership fees from wages, put the union under pressure to terminate the collective agreement, prohibited the union delegation from participating in international meetings of railways unions, and supported the formation of a yellow union.

Dismissed after organising new union: In the food producing company Klas, in Sarajevo, more than 100 workers decided to leave the Independent Trade Union of Workers in Agriculture, Food, Tobacco Industry, Water Management, Commerce, Catering and Tourism in BiH (PPDIVUT) and join the Trade Union of Commerce of BiH (STBiH), in an effort to better protect their rights. A day after the founding assembly of the new union branch was held on 10 November, newly elected shop steward Safet Papić, and his deputy Huso Pobrić, were dismissed for grave violation of their employment obligations, without the required consent of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. On 2 December, the Municipal Court of Sarajevo ruled Prpić's dismissal was illegal and ordered him to be reinstated.

Dismissal and attack on trade union president:

In February, the president of the enterprise level trade union at Dermal R in Kotor Varoš, Zdravka Ilić, was dismissed for her trade union activities and continuous demands for the respect of labour law and the collective agreements. The labour inspectorate ruled that the dismissal was unlawful, and ordered the reinstatement of Zdravka Ilić. It also instructed the employer to enable her to pursue her trade union activities. When the company refused, Zdravka Ilić contacted the labour inspectorate to take her inside the company. While waiting for the inspectors in front of the company gates, the company director physically and verbally attacked her. He also barred her and the labour inspectors from entering to the company premises.

After Zdravka Ilić contacted the Confederation of Trade Unions of Republika Srpska (SSRS) and the media informing them of the attack, the director suspended production in the company for the three days. He later instigated disciplinary proceedings against Zdravka Ilić. She was once again dismissed without the consent of the Ministry of Labour and Disability Protection of RS. In August, the company re-instigated disciplinary proceedings and fired Zdravka Ilić for not coming to work, again without the consent of the relevant minister. Her dismissal came after she had been told she was not allowed to enter the factory for more than a year.

In December, the Ministry of Labour and Disability Protection gave its consent to the notice of dismissal. Consent was given without any thorough investigation of the case but mainly on the grounds that the formal requirements for the disciplinary proceedings were met.

By the end of the year, court proceedings were in progress.

BiH Ministry of Justice flouts court ruling to register SSSBiH:

Despite pressure from the ILO, the Government of BiH has since 2002 refused to register the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SSSBiH) in the register of Citizens' Associations. It has given various pretexts for not doing so, but has failed to prove the legal basis for its actions. SSSBiH appealed to the Court of BiH and instigated legal proceedings.

The Court of BiH granted the appeal, annulled all the decisions delivered by the BiH Ministry of Justice and the BiH Council of Ministers Commission for appeals and ordered the Ministry to enter SSSBiH in the Register of Associations, given that there are no legal obstacles to doing so. However, by the end of 2011 the Ministry had not implemented the Court of BiH's decision.

Dismissed unionists reinstated: Trade union leader Mijo Kelava, and union members Ivica Šimunović, Cecilija Petrović and Ankica Miličević-Šimunović, were dismissed from Radio Hecreg Bosna on 13 April 2010, after founding a new trade union organisation. The previous company branch of the Independent Union of Professional Journalists of BiH (NNS) was deregistered by the Ministry of Justice of FBiH on 2 April 2010, thus forcing workers to terminate their strike over unpaid wages. After the new organisation was registered under the name Trade Union of Journalists of Radio Herceg Bosna, the employer initiated court proceedings against the Ministry of Justice, requesting it to be deleted from the register of associations. On 16 March, the County Court of Mostar ruled the employer's suit was unfounded, without the right of further appeal. While Kelava was ordered to be reinstated by court decision in June 2010, three other union members had to wait for the same decision to be made in their cases until April 2011.

Wood and mine workers denied trade union rights: In the wood processing company Budućnost, in Šamac, during a strike organised in October, workers were denied the right to strike inside the company premises. In the RMU Banović coal mine, workers decided to boycott the traditional Miners' Day celebrations on 21 December, due to continuous discrimination against members of the Trade Union of Coal Mine Workers of BiH, including lower salaries, demotion, banning the use of the bulletin board for trade union communications and the formation of a yellow union.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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