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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Serbia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Serbia, 9 June 2007, available at: [accessed 24 October 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: 7,498,000
Capital: Belgrade
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 111 – 138 – 182

A number of restrictions on the right to organise and the right to strike persist. A trade union member employed by the national television company was beaten up by strike-breakers.

Trade union rights in law

Authorisation required: All workers except military and police officers have the right to join and form a trade union. Trade unions must be registered in accordance with regulations issued by the Ministry of Labour. The procedure is very complicated, and is handled by the Ministry itself. The Ministry not only receives documentation, it must give its consent, which is contrary to the principles of freedom of association. Leaders of the company-level trade unions must be full-time employees at the time of registration and provide a certificate issued by their employer.

The Ministry can dissolve a trade union if false information is supplied during the registration procedure. The 2005 Labour Code stipulates that trade unions and their members acquire their rights once they have been entered in the register, and that a trade union must provide the employer with the registration certificate.

Collective bargaining: The right to bargain collectively is provided by law and exercised in practice. However, a company-level trade union needs to comprise 15 per cent of the workforce in order to be recognised as a bargaining agent.

The Labour Law of 2005 prohibits discrimination on the basis of trade union membership. However, the law does not expressly prohibit obstructing trade union activities and establishes no specific sanctions for anti-union harassment.

Right to strike heavily limited: The right to strike is recognised, although it is restricted for employees in "essential services", who must give at least 15 days' advance warning of strike action, and must ensure a minimum service. The notion of essential services is very broadly defined, and in practice covers 50 per cent of workers, including teachers and postal workers. The procedures for defining minimum services in the essential services are set out in government regulations and in practice may lead to a total ban on strike action, as happened in the case of JAT Airways in 2005, when all international traffic and 30 per cent of domestic traffic had to be guaranteed.

Strike action cannot be undertaken if parties to a collective agreement do not reach an agreement. The dispute is then subject to compulsory arbitration. Furthermore, the law on strikes states that participation in a strike can lead to suspension, not only of wages, but also of social security rights – which should be independent of the right to strike.

The law on Peaceful Settlement of Labour Disputes provides for compulsory arbitration in services of public interest, such as electricity distribution, water supply, public radio and television, postal and telecommunication services, public utilities, basic food production, health and veterinary protection, education, childcare and social protection.

Trade union rights in practice

Trade union rights often ignored: According to the UGS Nezavisnosc confederation, the rights of trade unions are often not respected at the workplaces.

Violations in 2006

Background: Serbia emerged as the legal successor to the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, which ceased to exist in June 2006, after Montenegro's vote for separation in a closely contested referendum. Tensions over the future of the Kosovo region increased in October, after the Kosovo Albanian majority boycotted the all-Serbian referendum on the constitution and the region's future. The EU and NATO criticised Serbia for failure to apprehend war crimes suspects. In December, however, Serbia was admitted to the NATO Partnership for Peace programme. Wage arrears remained a big problem and low salaries in the police and railway sector caused mass protests.

Unionist beaten up by strike-breakers: The congress of the national trade union confederation UGS Nezavisnost in November 2006 coincided with a strike at the national television company. Just a few days before the congress, a member of the Nezavisnost-affiliated union at the company was beaten up by strike-breakers in front of the television station.

Improvement at JAT Airways: Lasar Radosavljevic, President of the Serbian Cabin Crew Union, was reinstated at JAT Airways on 28 March after signing a settlement agreement, following the intervention of the International Transport Workers' Federation. As reported in the previous edition of the Survey, Mr. Radosavljevic had been sacked during the course of industrial action at JAT Airways. A court had ordered his reinstatement in December 2005 but the employer had refused to implement this judgement. The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has urged the government to review the situation of workers who were suspended or suffered other sanctions because of the JAT Airways strike.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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