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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bosnia and Herzegovina, 8 June 2011, 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: 3,800,000
Capital: Sarajevo
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

In a country with an almost 50 per cent unemployment rate and weak law enforcement, employers' pressure and occasional dismissals of trade unionists effectively discourage many workers from joining the union. A fragmented legislative framework and restrictive laws on trade union registration and strikes amplify the problem, including the fact that the Government continues to refuse registration to a state-level trade union confederation.


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.


Background: Since 1995 the Dayton Agreement, which brought an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has subordinated the country's national administration to supervision of the international community. Elections held in October 2010 did not bring much prospect of institutional reforms that would allow the country to establish full sovereignty and be considered for EU candidate status.

Anti-union multinationals: The Confederation of Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (KSBiH) reports that multinationals, especially in the commerce sector, strongly oppose trade unions. Workers in large shopping malls are threatened with dismissal if they join a trade union. Dismissals of trade union officials and reprisals for strike organising are not infrequent, and in a country where the official unemployment rate is close to 50%, such cases discourage many workers from joining a union. However, the situation did improve in Interlex, where the workers were previously threatened with a 50% wage cut if they formed a union. In October, the Trade Union of Workers in Commerce and Services of BiH (STBIH) held a trade union assembly in the company and elected five shop stewards.

Ministry of Justice deregistered trade union: The workers of Radio Herceg Bosne, in Mostar, went on strike on 30 November 2009 due to unpaid salaries. The employer tried to get the strike declared illegal by appealing to court, but on 20 March 2010 the Municipal Court of Mostar decided that the strike was legal and justified. However, on 2 April the Federal Ministry of Justice took the decision to deregister the company organisation of the Independent Union of Professional Journalists of BiH (NNS) and delete it from the trade union register, on the grounds that the union did not comply with its own statutes. As a consequence the workers had to terminate the strike, but on 13 April they registered a new trade union organisation. The next day Mijo Kelava, leader of the both the old and the new union, and three other trade union members were dismissed without a formal explanation. The Labour inspector initiated a court procedure against the employer in May, and the County Court in Mostar decided in June to return Mijo Kelava to work until the court procedure was concluded.

Manager assumed role of shop steward and demoted unionists: The General Manager of the tobacco factory Fabrika duhana Sarajevo, Edin Mulahasanovic, illicitly convened and presided a meeting of the trade union committee in September 2010, following which he assumed the rights and obligations of the company shop steward. The legally elected shop steward of the Independent Trade Union of workers in agriculture, food, tobacco, water management, commerce, catering and tourism activities of Bosnia and Herzegovina (PPDIVUT), Aziz Mrdic, had been demoted from a position of jurist to that of assistant non-skilled production worker. Another member of the same trade union, Hasib Kepes, was also demoted to the same position without regard to his poor health, which resulted in his hospitalisation due to a severe psychological condition.

Dismissed during strike: Twenty-four workers of Urbanisticki zavod Republike Srpske, in Banja Luka, were dismissed in June 2010 during a legally organised general strike that started 4 April. The Ministry of Labour and Veteran-Disability Protection of Republika Srpska considered the dismissals as illegal in August and ordered that the workers be allowed to return to work.

Trade union confederation still denied registration: Despite pressure from the ILO, the Government has since 2002 been refusing to register the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SSSBiH) under various pretexts. In 2010, SSSBiH was again denied registration, among other reasons on the grounds of its statute not being in line with the Law on Associations. The Government subsequently asked for all rules on organising at the company level to be deleted from the statute.

Trafficking of workers: The case of 700 workers from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Serbia, Macedonia, Moldova and Pakistan who had been recruited by SerbAz to work in Azerbaijan and who were later heavily exploited is still waiting for its court epilogue in Azerbaijan. While the police of BiH failed to find any irregularities in the work of the recruitment company SerbAz, Bosnian citizen Sasa Lipovac, who was in charge of the workers' camp site in Baku, was sentenced in January 2011 to ten years imprisonment for war crimes committed in BiH in 1993. Offers for well-paid work abroad are popular in BiH due to the harsh existential situation of the majority of the population, but there is concern that a number of the recruitment companies are using such arrangements as a cover for trafficking and exploitation of workers.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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