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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Serbia

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 - Serbia, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 22 November 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: 7,800,000
Capital: Belgrade
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

It remains common practice in the private sector to discourage trade union organising and threaten trade unionists with reprisals. The labour law hampers union formation as well as legitimate trade union activities. Due to the inefficiency of the labour inspectorate and the slowness of the judiciary system, even guaranteed workers' rights are often not easily obtainable in practice.


Trade union rights are limited despite some constitutional guarantees. The procedures for registering a union are very complicated, and authorisation is required from the Ministry of Labour. To be recognised as a collective bargaining agent, a union needs to comprise 15% of the workforce. In addition, section 233 of the Labour Law imposes a time period of three years before a new organisation, or a union which has failed to obtain recognition, may seek a decision on representativeness.

Furthermore, the right to strike is heavily restricted, as parties to a collective agreement must submit their disputes to compulsory arbitration, which is also the case for disputes in services of general interest. A minimum service must be provided in strikes in "essential services", the notion of which is very broad. The procedures for determining the minimum service are set out in government regulations and can even lead to a total ban on strike action. Finally, the law provides for the suspension not only of wages, but also of social security rights of striking workers.


Background: The country has slowly started to recover from the impact of the global financial crisis, but an arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) keeps public salaries and pensions frozen. A government proposal for retirement reform caused a joint action by five trade union organisations in October 2010. About 5,000 people protested in front of the Parliament and managed to obtain a withdrawal of the proposed law. A gradual improvement of external relations has again put Serbia on track to EU accession, with the possibility of gaining candidate status in 2011.

Organising and trade union action discouraged: Workers who wish to form a trade union are often "advised" by the employer not to do so or threatened with possible reprisals. Company level trade union leaders are often threatened with dismissal for organising industrial actions or publicly speaking about working conditions in their workplace. Court protection from such illegal actions on behalf of the employer is inefficient due to the slowness of the judiciary system, and Labour inspectorates do not always make an effort to stop anti-union behaviour.

Ministry of Justice interferes in strike: During a strike of employees in the judiciary in October 2010 over working conditions, the Ministry of Justice conducted a poll among the employees on the employer's offer to raise the salaries. The Judiciary Union stated that only a union can conduct a poll on the subject of cancelling the strike and has submitted a complaint to the Constitutional Court.

Unionists abused and discriminated against: After a four-day strike over wage arrears in May 2010 in the pharmaceutical company Srbolek, in Beograd, the employer reduced the pay for strike leaders from the trade union Nezavisnost – Chemical, Non-Metal, Energy, and Mining Industries Union (GS HNER) by 60%. During the second 65-day strike over the same issue starting on 9 August 2010, workers and trade union leaders were subjected to physical and psychological abuse, including illegal surveillance, by the company owner Jovica Stefanovic and a hired security team. The employer has previously also undertaken discriminatory measures against women workers who were pregnant or who gave birth.

Unionists dismissed: The management of Interlemind, in Leskovac, continuously threatened union leaders with dismissal. Sasa Milenovic, president of the company organisation of the Autonomous Metalworkers' Union of Serbia (SSMS), and Dragan Stojkovic, president of the Industrial Workers' Union Interlemind, were dismissed in July 2010 after a strike over unpaid wages that lasted more than two months. Ten further members of the striking committee were also threatened with dismissal. The local Labour Inspectorate overruled this decision as illegal in August 2010, and the union leaders were allowed to return to work.

The case of Zlatko Francuski and six other trade union committee members at Gorenje Tiki, in Stara Pazova, who were dismissed in August 2009 due to their trade union activities has still not been resolved by court. A hearing has been scheduled for February 2011.

Workers forced to join employer sponsored union: Workers in the companies Vital and Medela, in Vrbas, both having the same owner, were forced to leave the Autonomous Trade Union and join a new union sponsored by the employer. The President of the Autonomous Trade Union "Vital" Ðorde Vukovic was dismissed in May 2010 and Milan Gagovic was dismissed on 10 November, just a week after being elected as shop steward of the same union. A number of active trade unionists were not saved from reprisals, although they joined the new union, and some were also dismissed. The dismissals were explained as technological redundancies, but at the same time new workers were employed and the total number of employees remained the same. The same happened in Medela, where around 50 of 70 union members joined the new union and those active in organising a strike were dismissed.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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