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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of, 11 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52cadbc.html [accessed 22 September 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: 2,000,000
Capital: Skopje
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The right to strike is seriously limited. Labour law was amended without consulting the unions and new laws are being prepared that would curb trade union autonomy. Striking teachers and public servants suffered pressure from both employers and the public authorities.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom to form trade unions is guaranteed by the Constitution to "citizens", however the right to organise may be restricted for members of the armed forces, the police and administrative bodies. Trade unions are entitled to form federations and confederations and to join international organisations.

The Labour Relations Law protects the right to organise in trade unions without prior authorisation and prohibits discrimination based on trade union membership or activities. Trade unions and their associations may claim damages in court in the event of anti-union activities.

Employers are obliged to provide necessary facilities for company-level trade unions. However, if several unions are present, only the most representative one is entitled to facilities.

On 3 July the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy unveiled a proposal to amend the trade union-related provisions of the Labour Relations Law. The Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia (CCM) protested against the restrictive provisions of the draft and called on the Ministry to respect the ILO conventions.

The Ministry's proposal establishes a minimum membership requirement of 10 workers for a company-level union. Organising at a higher level will also be restricted: at least three unions from the same sector, as defined by the National Classification of Branches, will be required to create a sectoral organisation, and at least three sectoral organisations will be needed to establish a national trade union centre. The term "branch" is to be replaced by "sector" when referring to the levels of a collective agreement. As a result, trade unions' freedom to organise and bargain at levels other than the sector will be severely restricted.

Termination of activities: Trade unions are obliged to terminate their activities when membership falls below a minimum requirement although this minimum membership has not been specified by law. Similarly, a union is required to dissolve itself if its highest executive body failed to convene for a period exceeding twice the period provided for in its Constitution.

Trade union activities can be terminated by a court of general jurisdiction at the request of the Registrar, if trade union activities are deemed to be "against the law". In such cases, the court also decides on the distribution of the union's assets.

Collective bargaining: The Labour Relations Law provides for the right to bargain collectively and stipulates the obligation to negotiate in good faith. Collective bargaining is restricted to representative trade unions, that is, those representing 33% of the employees at the level at which the agreement is concluded (company, sector or country) or that belong to an association that is representative at a higher level. Several unions can join forces to meet the 33% criterion, but only where no single representative union exists.

The law provides a special system for sector-level agreements in the public sector and for the self-employed.

Right to strike: Strikes are permitted, including solidarity strikes. However, there are several restrictions that are incompatible with the international standards.

Trade unions are required to specify the length of a strike in advance. The strike must be organised in such a way that workers who do not participate in the strike can continue working, and the entrance to company premises must remain unobstructed.

Production must be maintained if the employer requests it, regardless of what kind of company or workplace is affected by the strike. If the trade union and the employer do not agree on how the maintenance of production is to be organised, the employer (as indeed the trade union) may unilaterally request arbitration. In addition, the Labour Relations Law gives employers the right to suspend up to 2% of those participating in a strike throughout its duration if they exhibit violent or "non-democratic" behaviour. This provision has reportedly been used to extract "inconvenient" trade union leaders from negotiations.

If a court has declared a strike illegal, the participants can be dismissed and sued for damages.

Civil servants are allowed to strike, but minimum services should be maintained. Employees in public undertakings must provide essential services to citizens, entities and public bodies. The list of such services has been established unilaterally by the founders of the said public undertakings.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia has the status of "candidate country" with the European Union and NATO. The dispute about the country's official name is being discussed by the International Court of Justice. In November the European Commission reported that the dialogue between the government and civil servants' organisations, as well as the tripartite dialogue, remained weak and largely formalistic.

Laws amended and trade unions ignored: On 24 July, under pressure from the International Financial Institutions, the parliament amended labour laws without consulting trade unions or employers' organisations. As it considered the law to be unconstitutional, the CCM brought a case before the Constitutional Court.

Anti-union employers: Dismissals for union activities are common although never acknowledged as such by companies. Furthermore, dismissal cases usually take two to three years to resolve. Some companies have allegedly tried to interfere in trade union elections.

Teachers pressured into giving up a strike: In September, the Ministry of Education signed a memorandum of partnership with the Trade Union of Employees in Education, Science and Culture (SONK, affiliated to Education International). Two months later, the Government announced that the wage increment for teachers would be postponed until 2010. SONK reacted by a nationwide strike on 24 November, which closed elementary and secondary schools. Teachers were pressured not only by school heads, but also by local mayors to give up the strike. Teachers on provisional employment contracts and those running undersize classes were particularly targeted. The situation became so serious that Education International sent a special envoy to mediate in the dispute. On 3 December a collective agreement was signed, bringing the strike to the end.

Government attacks public servants' union: In April the Trade Union of Administration, Judiciary and Citizens' Associations in Macedonia (UPOZ, affiliated to Public Service International) organised a strike for improving the pay and working conditions of its members. The government, the Ministry of Justice and the President of the Courts put pressure on UPOZ members to end the strike.

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