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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bosnia and Herzegovina

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 - Bosnia and Herzegovina, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 17 December 2017]
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: 4,000,000
Capital: Sarajevo
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The law governing trade union registration has been improved, but numerous problems remain. The national trade union confederation SSSBiH is still not registered.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of Association: Freedom of association is included in the constitution and the labour law of both the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Federation) and the Republika Srpska (RS). All workers, including migrant workers, are free to join trade unions, with the exception of the military.

In the Federation and the RS discrimination against trade union members and leaders is prohibited. Financial penalties are foreseen for anti-union discrimination against individuals, but there are no legal sanctions against employers who obstruct union organising.

The Revised European Social Charter of the Council of Europe was ratified in October. All provisions governing trade union rights have been accepted.

Right to collective bargaining: The right to collective bargaining is recognised throughout the country.

Law on Associations and Foundations amended: In July, the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the Law on Amendments to the Law on Associations and Foundations. The amendments address a number of ILO experts' concerns pertaining to trade union registration, but do not resolve all pending issues.

Previous authorisation: The time limits prescribed in the legislation for the registration of trade unions are very short and, in the view of the ILO, equivalent to a system of prior authorisation. Exceeding such limitations may lead to disproportionate penalties, such as the dissolution of the organisation in question or cancellation of its registration. The July amendments to the law slightly extended the deadlines and clarified the appeal procedures. The law also regulates trade unions' internal procedures in great detail, restricting their freedoms.

The Minister of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina has the right to accept or reject trade union registration at the State level, and if no decision is made in 30 days, the registration is considered to be denied tacitly. The 30-day deadline is rarely respected in practice.

Based on the July amendments, the Ministry of Justice or the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina can effectively dissolve a trade union. The grounds for administrative dissolution include a situation where the trade union did not convene its assembly for a period twice exceeding what is prescribed by the trade union constitution. Trade union activities can be prohibited by a court decision if the union's activities are not in line with the goals in its constitution.

In the RS trade unions have to pay court costs in order to be registered.

Restrictions on choosing trade union representatives: Company-level trade unions of the Republika Srpska must be entered into the General Ledger of the Ministry of Labour, War Veteran and Disability Protection. The Rulebook of this General Ledger stipulates that the authorised trade union representative must provide a certificate of his or her employment at the company. Should the employer fail to produce the certificate, there are neither sanctions nor alternative ways of proving one's employment.

Strikes limited: In the Federation, an employer must be notified of a strike in writing no later than ten days before the beginning of the strike. The written notification must list the reasons for the strike, the locality, and the date and time at which the strike is to take place. "Production maintenance" must be ensured during a strike. How this is to be done must be worked out in advance with the employer and announced no later than ten days before the strike is due to start. If no agreement is reached, then a strike will be declared unlawful by the court, trade unions can be fined up to 2,500 KM (EUR 1,250), and workers may be punished. The ITUC-affiliated Confederation of Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SSSBiH) is campaigning to change this law.

In the Republika Srpska, a minimum service must be provided by enterprises categorised as public services, the list of which is excessively long, for example, state radio and television and production of basic foodstuff. Workers in these enterprises must give at least eight days' notice before striking.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Government refusal to register SSSBiH: The Government has been refusing to register the SSSBiH since 2002, under various pretexts and regardless of the ILO pressure. This failure to register the SSSBiH has meant that neither its branch unions nor the ITUC-affiliated KSBiH, an umbrella organisation covering the entity-level trade unions, have been able to register, and that the national-level Economic and Social Council has still not been established. The SSSBiH also reports that employers have attempted to question the validity of the General Collective Agreement (on the grounds that it was signed by an "unregistered" organisation) and the collective agreements signed with SSSBiH affiliates.

Harassment of trade unionists: In the RS, private sector employers resort to harassment, intimidation and pressure against trade union members. Trade unions are discouraged from bringing such cases to courts since providing evidence is very difficult and court decisions are often not implemented.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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