Population: 3,800,000
Capital: Sarajevo
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Organising is difficult, especially in multinational companies in the commerce sector. Despite ILO intervention, the trade union confederation SSSBiH is still not registered. More than 700 workers from the region including Bosnia have been victims of labour trafficking. Union registration procedures are cumbersome, and the employers can prohibit virtually all strikes in the Federation.

Trade union rights in law

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 Minister of Justice has the right to reject union registration at the state level, and a trade union can be dissolved by the authorities if it has failed to convene its assembly. In the Republika Srpska, trade union representatives in company-level unions must provide certificates of their employment at the company, but there are neither sanctions nor alternatives if the employer fails to produce the document.

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.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

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. The Bosnian branch of Coca Cola has publicly stated that its workers are not allowed to join trade unions. Many workers at Interex have also expressed their interest in trade unionism, but are afraid to become members due to a statement made by the employer several years ago that every employee who joins a trade union would suffer a 50% pay cut. Similar situations have been reported in the supermarket chains Mercator and Robot throughout the country, as well as in the BINGO and Simbra supermarkets in Tuzla. Dismissals of trade union officials 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.

Union denied registration: On 9 March, the Ministry of Justice denied registration to the Trade Union of Workers in the Leather, Footwear and Rubber Industry of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Ministry objected to provisions in the union's constitution on trade union organising in companies and on international cooperation, although nothing in the national legislation prevents trade unions from adopting such provisions.

700 workers from the Balkans exploited in Azerbaijan: In October 2009, a case of exploitation of more than 700 workers from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Moldova and Pakistan in the Republic of Azerbaijan became public. The workers had been recruited by the SerbAz company. Due to its size and the number of exploited persons, this is one of the largest registered labour trafficking cases in this region. According to the testimonies of workers who returned, apart from not being paid for their work, they suffered severe physical and psychological violence on construction sites in this country. Trade unions, NGOs, international organisations and embassies were involved in the repatriation process and provision of assistance to these workers. This case should go to court in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2010.

Union still denied registration: Despite pressure from the ILO, the Government has been refusing to register the SSSBiH since 2002 under various pretexts. The failure to register the confederation has meant that neither its branch unions nor the KSBiH, an umbrella organisation for entity-level trade unions, have been able to register. The Ministry of Justice and its Appeals Commission ruled that there was not enough evidence that SSSBiH had existed as a trade union confederation from 2002-2007, and that a court decision confirming its existence was therefore needed. SSSBiH submitted the case to court on 17 July, but no verdict had been reached by the end of the year.

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