New Session of
EU-Serbia Joint Consultative Committee

1. November 2018  •518•    Further

The seventh session of the JCC was held at the end of October with participation of numerous representatives of social partner and non-governmental organisations. The activities of this body are a part of the accession process which brings Serbia gradually to the EU and it helps monitoring the economic and social dimension of negotiations, i.e. estimating them from the point of view of trade unions, employers and civil society.
At the beginning, a detailed briefing was given by the representatives of the EU Delegation to Serbia, the Negotiating Team for Accession and the Ministry of Labour, who analysed the current state of negotiations. Reviewing the Annual Progress Report, the EU representatives pointed out the need for more transparency and improvement of the state administration work.
So far, there are fourteen negotiating Chapters that have already been opened, two were temporarily closed, while - according to the statement of the Head of the Negotiating Team, Tanja Miscevic - an action plan for Chapter 19 on social policy and employment is about to be adopted soon.
The participants were generally convinced that some progress had been made, but insisted it could have been bigger. They also concluded unanimously that the future of the process depended mostly on the capacities of Serbian administration and political process within the EU.

Pensioners Demand from Government
Their Stolen Property

31. October 2018  •517•    Further

Yesterday, in front of the CATUS building the Association of Pensioners' Trade Unions and Association of Retired Military Officials organized a protest and demanded from the Government and Parliament a law regulating the payment of the part of pension “nationalized” in 2014 (with accrued interest).
President of the Association of Pensioners' Trade Unions of Serbia, Mihajlo Radović, said that the protest was organized because ''recently adopted amendments to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance neither regulated nor anticipated the return of property taken away from about 700,000 pensioners“. Financial damage inflicted upon pensioners varies from 2,500 to 7,000EUR, he said and pointed out that the trade union ''would continue its fight for pensions before our courts, but was also ready to go to Strasbourg''.
Radović stressed that pension was a property right, protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and fundamental laws, which didn't represent an obstacle for the Government to seize the money from pensioners' pockets, without their consent“. According to him, this was a road to anarchy and the only one to be blamed for it was the Constitutional Court of Serbia which was under a strict control of the Government. Besides, the amendments to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance enable those in power to increase and reduce pensions as they wish. For pensioners it would be the best to see a sustainable and predictable formula for pension adjustment brought back. Anyway, this formula used to work quite well till 2014.
President of the Association of Retired Military Officials of Serbia, Jovan Tamburić, thinks that those in power count on the fact that due to court expenses and complex procedure the majority of workers would ever initiate the procedure for the compensation of damages or they’ll simply die. Former judge of the Supreme Court, Zoran Ivošević, said that according to the estimate of the Ministry of Finance the overall saving made through the reduction of pensions in the course of three years could have generated 100 billion RSD (830 million EUR)! Those resources were transferred to the budget and the politicians used them for their own needs, while depriving the users of their legally acquired property.
Participants in the protest held banners saying ''Return the Stolen Pensions!'', ''Stop Robbing Pensioners!'', ''My Pension is My Property''. After the rally they walked to the Constitutional Court and continued their protest.

CATUS Conference on Growing Number
of Accidents at Work

30. October 2018  •516•    Further

Accidents and deaths at work place which have recently happened in Serbia are making trade unions and workers seriously concerned. The world of labour that we represent finds any number of occupational accidents unacceptable, especially those with a tragic outcome. We cannot accept the fact that since the beginning of this year 28 people lost their lives at construction sites.
In order to find answers to some fundamental questions, such as how to prevent the accidents at work place and promote employees' health (especially in the riskiest sectors - construction, mining, chemical, arms and processing industry), the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia is organizing a round table entitled 'Safe and Healthy Work is Worker's Right'.
In the discussion, which will involve representatives of ministries, different institutions, employers' associations and experts, we will try to define necessary measures and activities which would contribute to the creation of a healthy and safe working environment. Round table will be held tomorrow, on Wednesday October 31, 2018 in the CATUS premises at Nikola Pasic square.

Increasing Pressure on Trade Unionists
Even in Public Companies

25. October 2018  •515•    Further

Pressures on presidents of trade union organizations continue, which sends a clear message not only to legally elected workers' representatives, but also to all employees, showing them what will happen if they fight for their rights and future of the company they work in.
We are already used to hearing numerous examples of employer's arrogance in the private sector, where often the establishment of trade union organizations is banned and if they do exist, their representatives are harassed.
However, such things happening in public companies (where the authorities are boasting about having signed collective agreements, respecting them and negotiating with trade unions) are particularly worrying.
Two most drastic cases are the public company “Utva-Avio industry” from Pančevo, where the president of the autonomous trade union was dismissed due to his trade union activities and the newest case of the trade union organization in Zastava Weapons whose president received a warning to be dismissed in case he makes any, even the slightest, breach of company’s rules in the next six months.

Pensioners' Protest Оn October 30

19. October 2018  •514•    Further

Due to the bad reform of pension system and critical financial status of pensioners and employees, the Association of Trade Unions of Retired Army Officials and Association of Pensioners' Trade Unions are going to organize a protest in Belgrade, on October 30. The protest will start at 4 pm, at Nikola Pasic square and be supported by the European Federation of Retired and Elderly People – FERPA.
"We wish to send a message to those in power, in a legal and democratic way and say that we cannot accept the unconstitutional and non-transparent reform of Serbian pension system, where the rights of current and future pensioners based on their contributions to the Pension Fund are not respected", state the unions in their proclamation.
The unions also accuse the Government of refusing to regularly adjust pensions to the increase of the cost of living (at least by 20%-25%). They demand the annulment of the Amendments to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance which terminated the process of regular pension adjustment and left the decision-making in this domain with the executive power. One more reason for the protest is the Serbian Government’s refusal to recognise the right to pension as a property right and refund the amounts that were not paid in line with the Law on Temporary Provisions for the Administration of Pension Payments.
The Government is asked to urgently initiate a public debate on the reform of pension system since so far it has been conducted in a non-transparent way, without a dialogue with employees, pensioners and employers and to the detriment of the insured.
"In case the citizens don't oppose the unconstitutional and immoral reform of the pension system, the rights of more than 1.2 million pensioners and current employees, who either have or will have have pensions exceeding the average level, will disappear. And we shall see our rulers claiming another victory of their reformist strategy", says the proclamation.

Stricter Control of Workers on Sick Leave?

17. October 2018  •513•    Further

If the initiative of Serbian Chamber of Commerce is adopted, our employers will be entitled to check their sick workers’ status in case the number of absentees exceeds the 10% of company’s work force. This should be done by a written claim directed to hospitals which granted them sick leaves. The idea is to introduce this clause into the Labour Law, adding paragraphs which enable dismissals of fake patients and penalization of irresponsible doctors. The Chamber of Commerce explained that the initiative was taken after consultations with employers’ associations who were irritated by the misuse of sick leaves. However, it is not known yet what body will decide on the authenticity of workers’ sickness.
In the statement to the media, the Vice-President of CATUS, Vukovic, said that Chamber’s proposal was a “nonsense”. “Our Labour Law already gives the employer a possibility of penalizing those who misuse sick leaves. If the employer has doubts about the real health conditions of the worker he can – at his own cost – send them to another doctor whose report may become a reason for dismissal. If such legal possibility already exists, the Chamber’s proposal cannot be judged otherwise than being absurd. The initiative, according to Vukovic, is meant just at raising tensions. “Following that logic, the unions could claim a paragraph in the Labour Law stipulating prison sentences for employers not paying wages on time”.
The unions are also astonished by the fact that it was the Chamber of Commerce and not the Social and Economic Council to take the initiative. The move seems a part of a broader strategy adopted by Serbian neoliberals, as not long ago our Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, said that a considerable number of foreign investors were ready to leave unless some substantial changes were made in labour legislation. Then, giving the example of massive misuse of sick leaves, she said it was necessary to find a way to stop such practice. “Those who are really sick shouldn’t be afraid of control”, she concluded.
CATUS General Secretary, Mihajlovic, is convinced that Chamber’s proposal is another attempt to legalise mobbing. He said many workers have already been using a part of their vacation for sick leaves. The Labour Law sufficiently “stimulates workers to be healthy” as in case of sickness their wages are considerably diminished.

Social and Economic Council Presented
Itself to Parliament

2. October 2018  •512•    Further

A few days ago the MPs had an opportunity to get thoroughly informed about the functioning of our SEC. Established informally in 2001 it was soon strengthened by a law precisely regulating its composition and work. Its eighteen members represent the Government, employers’ associations and trade unions and all decisions are to be made by consensus.
President of the Employers’ Association of Serbia, Nenezic, said that although the decisions of this tripartite body didn’t oblige social partners, its opinions certainly affected their behavior. Stressing its role as a factor bringing together workers and employers, he gave examples of countries where social dialogue had become a part of tradition and was continuously going on. Recently, our SEC has become a member of the AICESIS (International Association of Economic and Social Councils) which unites 65 such bodies all across the world.
Minister of Labour, Djordjevic, was of the opinion that in the future the SEC would play a more important role. However, a necessary condition for such development was the establishment of properly functioning local councils.
CATUS President, Orbovic, insisted on the fact that SEC was not only the expression of European values, but the most practical tool for finding best solutions in the domain of industrial relations. “Due to opposite interests that we represent, it’s not always easy to reach a consensus”, he said and added that “although the working of the Council cannot be described as ideal, we still appreciate the growing regularity of its sessions and disappearance of taboo subjects. There are many new initiatives, the last of them being related to social partners’ agreement on minimum wage that within three years should equal the minimum consumer basket”.
In the second part of his speech, Orbovic criticized the general lack of debate on law drafts, and accused the Government’s unwillingness to derogate the rule which stipulated pension cuts for those who retire with full years of service, but before 65 years of age.

FIAT Factory (FCA) Stays in Kragujevac

25. September 2018  •511•    Further

The good news was accompanied by another one: until the end of this year the production of FIAT 500L will go on according to the plan and following the growing demand. The public learned about this from the President of CATUS company trade union organization, Zoran Markovic, who explained that he got this information in Belgrade, during a meeting with FIAT director Silvia Vernetti and her team. This way, he said, all speculations about FIAT leaving Serbia have come to an end.
Speaking about the future of the company, Markovic said that conditions under which the FCA would operate were not mentioned, but announced they would be on the agenda of a meeting with the Government that holds 33% of company assets.
Markovic also added that the talks with management did not include a possible production of a new FIAT model which would considerably increase both company profits and workers’ well-being. “We are convinced that FIAT will stay here for many more years, produce new models and increase production”, said the first man of FIAT trade union, concluding that “he finally felt relieved from anxiety”.

Teachers Strike by Shortening Lessons

21. September 2018  •510•    Further

President of Teachers Union (member of the CATUS), Valentina Ilic, announced a strike against the draft Law on job classification that would start on September 24. By this action the union wants to turn attention of state institutions and the public to the ever worsening position of teachers and loss of their professional dignity. The strike enjoys full support of the Confederation and its federations.
Teachers will strike by shortening their lessons down to 30 minutes, while the rest of the staff will work only 20 hours a week i.e. 4 hours a day. These reductions are in compliance with the laws on elementary and secondary education stipulating the teachers’ obligation to respect minimum service hours.
In schools where not everybody is on strike, the bells will ring announcing the end of lessons both after 30 and 45 minutes. Those who strike will remain in class-rooms after the first ring in order to care for pupils’ safety, while the others will go on with their 45 minute lessons.
In schools where everyone is on strike, the lessons will last only 30 minutes and teachers will have no obligation of staying in class-rooms after the ring.
In a letter to its members the TUS reminds teachers they don’t have the obligation to deliver the lists of those who strike to principals.

Persecution of Trade Union and
Its President in Zastava Weapons

17. September 2018  •509•    Further

In a communiqué published today, the trade union organization in Zastava Weapons complained it was constantly under pressure and periodically mistreated by the public authorities. “The attempts to discipline our activists and members go on”, say the unionists, “but it will not stop us from protesting against the current state of affairs, which is exclusively a result of the bad management of the factory”. It all started three years ago, when on the basis of anonymous criminal charges and by the order of the prosecutor, the company trade union organization was inspected by the tax administration, financial police and inspectors of the Economic Crime Department of the Ministry of Interior. On that occasion, all trade union documents, its bank account and suppliers that Trade Union cooperates with, were inspected. However, the result of the investigation was contrary to what the authorities expected. For that reason, a new pressure was put and various criminal charges pressed against the President of the union. Additionally, he started receiving letters in which company director again and again threatened him with dismissal. Obviously, the recent punishment (20% salary reduction, during three months) did not work and new methods had to be invented.
At the beginning of last week, as in the ''good old days'', Ilic was summoned to the police and interrogated because of criminal charges pressed by the general director Brzaković (whose security he allegedly “jeopardized”) and President of the Supervisory Board, Serbian Army Colonel, Marjanović (for a “physical attack” in the administration building of the factory). For a “physical attack” Ilic was also accused by Milan Milošević, security service manager, a notorious keeper and key-holder of the factory gates during the strike, who used every way possible to prevent workers from reaching the administration building.
Persecution, however, didn’t stop there. The policemen have been actively following his car and harassing him by often making him pay for minor offences. Once, upon such an event he was arrested and kept for a long time in the police station because he allegedly didn't want to take an alcohol test. Although he didn't resist the arrest, the policemen in charge handcuffed him and took him to the emergency room, where he had to wait for a check-up like a dangerous criminal, a fact that shocked all present citizens. When his turn has finally come, the policeman, aware of the fact that it would represent an undeniable proof of his innocence, didn't let him take the official test. Besides, there are reliable findings that his mobile phone is being tapped, while the staff of the Security Intelligence Agency are from time to time following him and asking about his whereabouts.
Long-term attacks on trade union and the campaign which is carried out are the consequence of the ruling neoliberalism, whose representatives wish to adapt the factory to the demands of the capitalist market. When the union tried to oppose the proposed model of privatization, they started seeing it as ''a market-disturbing element''. However, it's clear that without trade union participation in the decision-making process it's impossible to achieve long-term and constructive solutions, which would be useful for both factory and workers. Therefore, the factory trade union and the CATUS, denounce the unfair attacks and pressure demanding from public authorities to enable free trade union activities, in line with the ILO Conventions that were signed by the Republic of Serbia. Anyway, the international trade union organizations will certainly be informed about everything going on in the factory.

Serbia Needs a New Labour Law

14. September 2018  •508•    Further

“We learnt from the media that employers were writing a new Labour Law! It makes us think of gangsters who would be given a possibility to write a new Criminal Code”! This personal opinion circulated through social networks six years ago, when the country was preparing for a “modern labour legislation in line with the EU standards and IMF recommendations”. Unfortunately, in times where the bullying at work has become usual, this statement still tells a lot about the sad Serbian reality.
In order to attract foreign investments and create new jobs, the Government only takes care of employers’ interests. That enables them to oppress workers by threatening them with dismissals. Favourite targets are trade unionists in companies, whose “pacification” is a clear message for those workers who are ready to fight for their rights. The fear to lose one’s job is one of the main obstacles hindering workers to join trade unions and more actively participate in their activities. It’s scandalous that employers’ misdeeds are often blessed by the authorities.
We are already used to the news about bullying in private companies where quite often the very establishment of trade union organization is not welcome and trade union representatives – if they manage to get organized – are mistreated. However, it’s always a bad surprise when we find such behavior in companies which were public not long ago, such as airplane factory “Utva” in Pancevo, where President of CATUS trade union organisaton, Slobodan Kostic, was dismissed simply for defending workers’ interests. The excuse were the alleged changes in company’s Rulebook on internal organisation and classification of tasks and positions”, which made Kostic redundant. The same happened to the members of the strike committee who dared to announce a warning strike.
After privatization of the company, the new manager mostly cared about making a list of redundancies and decreasing salaries, in spite of the fact that they are the lowest in the sector. Workers’ resistance resulted in the strike committee’s decision to announce a warning strike and later on the management’s decision to fire them all.
All this proves that Serbia needs a new Labour Law regulating not only the behavior of workers but of the employers as well, a law that would be in line with the EU legislation and enable prosecution of employers violating workers’ rights – especially those delaying the payment of wages. The CATUS is determined never to comply with any mistreatment of workers and their representatives and is ready to fiercely fight for the respect of their rights.

Minimum Wage to
Cover Minimum Consumer Basket?

10. September 2018  •507•    Further

Social and Economic Council of Serbia accepted this proposal made by the CATUS and is willing to see it realized within three years. In order to make it possible, social partners agreed to allow faster increase of the minimum wage until it reaches the minimum basket value i.e. 36,000 dinars (305 euros).
This is a good step forward and it will have a positive effect on Serbian economy, think the unions, but at this moment they are more concerned about the result of negotiations for the next year minimum. Unfortunately, it has not been fixed yet, although there is hope it might be done on one of the next SEC sessions.
The joint proposal made by the employers and the Government (155 dinars i.e. 1.3 euros per hour and 27,000 dinars i.e. 229 euros per month) was not approved by CATUS and TUC Nezavisnost who demand a more substantial increase – 10% instead of 8.6%.
The current minimum wage in Serbia is 143 dinars per hour (1.2 euros) and 24,800 dinars per month (210 euros). The worst of it is that more than 330,000 Serbian workers have to find a way to survive with that tiny amount.

Belgrade: One More Deadly Accident at Work

3. September 2018  •506•    Further

Two weeks after the tragedy which occurred at one of Belgrade construction sites we still don’t know the truth about real causes of the accident. Worker that lost his life when a wall crushed down and buried him under thick layer of bricks and mortar is just one more example of negligence that killed 23 of his colleagues since the beginning of this year. The responsibility lies with the employers whose unlimited greed induces them to avoid registering workers and economize with safety equipment.
For the moment, one knows for sure that the unfortunate worker was employed by a subcontractor who did not register him nor undertake necessary measures to secure the work place. In order to find those who are responsible for the accident the Labour Inspection has announced a large-scale investigation and frequent controls in the future. It won’t be a small job as there are more than 1,100 big construction sites in Serbia.
President of Construction Workers’ Union, Torlakovic, affirms that workers are under pressure when looking for a job, which makes them accept the unfair offers of the employers and lose courage to report them to the Inspection. They always have in mind that in case they do that, it will be extremely difficult to find a job with a different employer. “The fear of losing job is so deep that one is ready to risk their life for 2000 dinars (17 euros) a day”, says Torlakovic comparing such workers to the victims of “blackmailing”.

Teachers Ready for Strike

30. August 2018  •505•    Further

On August 23, the Teachers’ Union of Serbia (member of the CATUS) made decision to participate in the rally which will be organized together with other representative unions in the sector at the end of this month. The unions got nervous as their talks with Minister of Education Sarcevic gave no palpable result. Therefore, they plan to organize a series of protests at the beginning of the new school year, on September 3rd, 11th, 19th and 27th. As usual, the teachers will express their disappointment and anger by shortening their lessons.
The unions followed the debate on the new Law on Salaries in Public Sector for a long time and with great interest, and got extremely disappointed by the fact that majority of teachers (98%) were to be in the 8th group, deprived of decent salaries and without any real possibility of promotion. Only a thousand of them (mostly principals) will be in the 9th group – better paid (the 58% increase) and with prospects for the future.
President of TUS, Valentina Ilic, said that teachers should be treated as other employees with high education and moved into the 9th group. Criticizing the fact that the law did not mention custodians and cleaners, she insisted that people belonging to the 1st group get at least a minimum wage, not less. At this moment, it seems highly probable that the employees in four (lower) groups will be getting less than a minimum wage. If the Government were ready to solve this problem, it should spend 84 billion dinars, which is not the case.

CATUS against Discrimination of Workers in Serbia

28. August 2018  •504•    Further

Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia thinks it is unacceptable to cancel penalty points for early retirement only for those with a shorter length of service and demands from the authorities to treat everybody equally. Law containing the provision on penalty points was passed some time ago and according to it all employees getting retired earlier than they are supposed to, will have their pensions reduced.
Our trade union has nothing against cancelling ''penalties'' for firefighters, policemen, military, miners and others with a shorter length of service, but insists that the amendments to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance cover all workers.
CATUS hasn't still received such a proposal from the Ministry of Labour but learned about it from the media. It immediately reacted against the amendments and declared it would fight against any discrimination of workers. Such has been its attitude since the beginning of discussion on possible law amendments and it has no intention of changing it.
More than a year ago,CATUS officially proposed the amendment to the questionable provisions, which Minister Djordjevic fully supported on the occasion of May 1, announcing that penalty points for those getting retired before 65 years of age would probably be cancelled till the end of 2018 .

MIHAJLOVIĆ: Fight for Minimum Wage Begins

23. August 2018  •503•    Further

At the time when GDP growth and unemployment drop are evident in Serbia, it is logical that trade unions expect the increase of minimum wage. CATUS analysts calculated that today's real minimum wage is lower than the one in 1906, meaning that today less products can be bought with it than a century ago. Therefore, it is good news that on August 27, at Social and Economic Council (SEC) session, the representatives of trade unions, Government and employers will start negotiations about minimum wage increase. Last year SEC agreed on its 10% increase at the expense of the Government which accepted to increase the untaxed part of the wage. At that time, the Ministry of Finance promised to deliver to social partners the macroeconomic indicators necessary for fixing the minimum wage amount.
In a press statement, CATUS Secretary Zoran Mihajlović declared that minimum wage should not be lower than the price of minimum consumer basket for a three-member family, which amounted to 36,000 RSD (308EUR). He explained that at the moment it might not be realistic – compared to the current minimum wage the new amount could seem enormous - but if the Government really wanted to raise its citizens' living standard it ought to take the proposed figure into consideration. If social partners did not accept this proposal, Mihailovic was categorical, the CATUS should not agree to the offer lower than 80% of consumer basket price, which would be equal to 29,130 RSD (247EUR). If it was taken into account that the current average wage in Serbia was 50,377 RSD (427 EUR), it really should not be too much of an increase. Minimum wage for the simplest work, he insisted, needed to satisfy basic needs of a household.
“I think it is not normal for an employee to live below the poverty line or have his very existence jeopardized'', pointed out CATUS Secretary, adding that ''if every day we talk about birth rate increase and the wish to keep young people in Serbia, citizens' living standard needs to be improved''. Employers would also benefit from both minimum and average wage increase because in that way they would manage keeping young, expert and capable people in their companies. However, it seemed they did not realise this. Mihajlović hopes that the Government of Serbia will support trade union arguments and find a way to increase minimum wage, adding that one of the possibilities is to increase again the untaxed part of the gross wage and thus alleviate the pressure on employers.
Trade union can't make peace with the fact that minimum wage amounting to 24,000 RSD (203 EUR) goes to around 350,000 (out of 2 million) Serbian workers, which makes 14% of the whole labour force! This is what recently CATUS President Ljubisav Orbović talked about in Zrenjanin when he asked for the minimum wage to be paid out only in the case a company had serious problems and until they have been eliminated. On that occasion he also analysed the work of SEC whose sessions, as he said, were held regularly but were not attended by the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. They are its members and their absence led to a situation where “the adopted initiatives had never been realized''.

CATUS for Salary Increase in Public Sector

13. August 2018  •502•    Further

Serbian Social and Economic Council supports the abolition of the Law on Temporary Decrease of Salaries in Public Sector. Journalists heard about this during the press-conference which was attended by the Minister of Labour, Djordjevic, President of the Employers’ Union, Nenezic and President of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia, Orbovic. The initiative was taken by the CATUS and readily accepted by other social partners. Minister of Labour, Djordjevic described it as “concrete and constructive” and said he hoped to see the Minister of Finance at the next Social and Economic Council session and hear his opinion on the viability of the project.
CATUS President, Orbovic criticised again the absence of Prime Minister, Brnabic and Minister of Finance, Mali, from the session where such important issues were discussed. He also warned that although in some segments of public sector (in health, education and culture, for example) the salaries were increased while in many others it was not the case. He pointed out to the Post, Pension and Disability Fund, National Employment Service and public utilities where the salaries were still low.
Orbovic concluded by saying that fortunately “the initiative was taken on time and quickly accepted by social partners”. He also expressed hope that Government will work on it and find necessary financial means for its realization.

Minister Djordjevic: Through retraining to adequate workforce

8. August 2018  •501•    Further

In his latest statement, Minister of Labor and Employment Djordjevic said that his Ministry was analysing labour market in order to determine demand for professions and offer necessary retraining. Serbian Government, he added, had already noticed the lack of labour force in some sectors which could cause serious problems in the future and was decided to work actively in order to prevent it.
“We already have a shortage of workforce”, said Mr. Djordjevic “and are trying to retrain people and satisfy the demand. We started with sending them to the IT sector and were rather successful. Now we are working together with local national services in order to determine their needs. We are also looking for people ready to be retrained and make part of the staff in companies and institutions. At the same time, however, we want those who work to keep their jobs.
The minister pointed out that there were many who still practiced the "old professions" at the time where there was a serious demand for the new ones. Luckily, the people are more and more interested in the IT sector, so it’s hard to find a free place at retraining courses as there are often ten candidates competing for one place.
When it comes to adapting the education to the needs of the market, Djordjevic said that while earlier it was considered a rather peripherical issue, nowadays the synergy between different partners was steadily growing. A good example was the cooperation with the Ministry of Education where two ministries were making a common survey, as well as with the investors where two sides were working together on defining labour market needs.

New Arrangement with IMF

1. August 2018  •500•    Further

The IMF approved of a new arrangement for Serbia called "houseleek" and for the time of its validity Serbia has obliged itself to a series of concrete goals which need to be reached by a certain time. This way Serbia obliged itself to a privatisation of PKB Corporation (agro-business company) and the deadline for a tender invite for that company is July this year.
New arrangement with the IMF also says that till the end of August the analysis of a possible raising of electricity price will be done in cooperation with the World Bank. Concerning Serbian Electric Utility Power Company, it is expected that till 2020 the company would change its status into a joint-stock company. In September Ministry of Economy is supposed to organize a tender for MSK company and Petrochemical company while till the end of this year the state would need to start shutting down two unprofitable mines in Resavica. According to the arrangement, till the end of February 2019 a decision needs to be made regarding the privatization of Komercijalna banka (Commercial bank) and the tender will be announced in June 2019.

Marković: New Agreement with FIAT Will Be Signed
No Reason to Worry

24. July 2018  •499•    Further

President of the autonomous trade union organization in FIAT Chrysler Automobiles in Serbia, Zoran Marković, doesn't expect basic business guidelines to be changed because there is a new chief executive director at the head of FIAT Chrysler.
“It has been announced that FIAT Chrysler would stay in Serbia, meaning that a new agreement will be signed and there is no reason to be worried”, says Marković, after Michael Manley replaced Sergio Marchionne at the post of chief executive director. According to Marković, at the moment factory in Kragujevac has bigger problems than worry about who is running the company globally and they include employment, number of working days, working conditions...
About a month ago Marchionne announced a five-year company strategy envisaging that this automobile giant would continue the production of FIAT 500-L in Kragujevac. However, the question is what the business plan for Serbia would look like now when Marchionne has left.
If FCA finanacial report is taken into account, in 2017 business profit decreased by more than 20 billion dinars, which is around 170 million euros.
It is also added in the finanacial report that in 2016 there were additional funds amounting to 1.25 billion euros which the Government of Serbia paid in line with the amended agreement on joint investments. For the time being the amount of state aid for FCA in a new agreement with this company is not known, especially because the last one was signed before Stabilization and Association Agreement strictly defining state aid rules was enforced.
In the meantime Serbia has harmonized its legislation with the EU's and the question is if and to what extent this is possible in line with our Law on State Aid Control.

Declaring Law on Temporary Regulation of Salary
in Public Sector Null and Void – Urgently

13. July 2018  •498•    Further

Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia asked the Prime Minister to declare null and void the Law on temporary regulation of salary, i.e. wages and other steady income calculation and payment bases of public fund users.
In line with the decision of the CATUS Presidency, made at the session held on July 4, CATUS demands this law to be declared null and void having in mind that temporariness of such regulation of salary and other income is being emphasized in the very title of the Law and its first article and salaries of employees working in the sector returned to their previous level. At the sessions of Social and Economic Council, preceding the enforcement of this Law, CATUS representatives had been pointing out that the Law would put public sector employees into an unequal position. This was confirmed in practice because low income dating from November 2014 brought employees and their families to the edge of existence.

“Sloboda” Cacak:
600 New Permanent Employment Contracts

11. July 2018  •497•    Further

Thanks to the company trade union organization 453 workers got permanent employment contracts in last three months. Another 142 workers will see their fixed time contracts transformed into permanent ones until October this year. Then, the total number of new permanent jobs will be 595.
“Although they were always paid the same as the others, these young people will only now feel secure and be able to plan their future, marry and raise children, buy flats…”, says Dragan Jekic, President of the company trade union. He explains that unionists put this issue on the agenda already in 2014 by sending letters to the company management and Ministry of Defense. A proof they were right are eight verdicts pronounced in favour of workers who dared to sue the company.
All new permanent employees worked at least two years on fixed-time contracts, but many spent much more time in the company. So, the first to sign new contracts will be those who started working between 2009 and 2011 and only then those employed in 2016 through employment agencies for a two year period.

Labour Legislation Enriched by New Laws

6. July 2018  •496•    Further

The laws have been adopted by the National Assembly and will come into force at the end of this week. The most important are those concerning:

  • seasonal jobs in some specific sectors (in agriculture, forestry and fishing). The law simplifies the employment and regulates payment of taxes and contributions. Seasonal workers may work at most 180 days in a calendar year, the employer being obliged to pay contributions for them to pension and disability insurance fund. There is also health insurance, but it’s valid only in the case of an accident at work or professional disease.
  • employment of foreigners, which simplifies the procedure for obtaining work permissions. The legislator aimed at improving the business climate and attracting investments.
  • temporary work abroad, stipulating the obligation of at least three-month work in Serbia before being posted to another country. The obligation of sending information on posted workers to the Government was abolished.
  • peaceful settlement of labour disputes, which strengthens the role of arbiters whose decisions are to be directly enforced and makes the working time, vacations and minimum wage subjects of arbitration as well. The law also opens door to collective labour disputes on subjects such as enforcement of collective agreements, representativeness of trade unions in companies and definition of the minimum service levels. In the case there are no unions in a company, the striking committee may also be considered a party in the dispute. Unlike the practices prevailing in the past, representative unions did participate in the elaboration of this draft.

Government Assures of Its Respect
for Social Dialogue

4. July 2018  •495•    Further

The statement on tripartism was given at the press conference following the latest session of the Social and Economic Council (SEC). In the months to come the Council will allegedly participate in drafting the 2019 budget and a set of several important laws.
The reaction of social partners was immediate. Dusko Vukovic, CATUS Vice-President and SEC member, said that the Government statement was “encouraging”. “Until now they only used to inform us about already made drafts, but the Minister of Finance, Mali, has announced our participation in debates on the next budget”, he commented.
President of the Association of Employers of Serbia also confirmed that at the SEC session it was agreed that social partners would not only give their opinion on draft laws but actively participate in their creation. He stressed the importance of a decision concerning support of local social and economic councils that was also agreed.
At the end of the conference TUC “Nezavisnost” President, Stojiljkovic, announced that Government had promised “considerable amounts” that would help the working of the SEC.
Might the sudden change of the Government’s attitude towards social dialogue indicate that CATUS intervention in the Committee on the Application of Standards was effective and that the ILO Recommendation issued on that occasion in order to improve social dialogue in the country is already giving its fruits?

Kragujevac: Protest Rally of
Zastava Truck Factory Ex-Workers

29. June 2018  •494•    Further

The workers of the factory which, although not working for two years, still exists as a legal entity, protested in front of the company’s headquarters asking the payment of the remaining 5 to 10 wages, jubilee awards for service, and 2010 - 2016 contributions to Pension Fund. The average sum owed to each worker is around 500,000 dinars (4237 euros) and the court has already issued the verdict that they had to be paid. The workers’ demand was sent not only to the factory management but to Prime Minister Brnabic and Ministers of the economy (Knezevic) and justice (Knezevic).
In the letter, they write they cannot stand looking at further selling out of their ex-factory, when the payment of what is owed to them is still pending. They mention the famous Zastava’s Center of Occupational Safety and Health which was “donated” to the Ministry of Health, in spite of the Government’s estimates showing that means obtained by its possible sale would be more than enough to cover all contributions owed to the Pension Fund.
In addition, the workers point out that the accessories unit was mysteriously sold “almost for free”, truck seats production hall “at a price of a two-room apartment”, while the legality of the Kragujevac City administration possession of some ex-management offices is “highly questionable”.

Almost a Third of Privatization
Agreements Cancelled in Serbia

23. June 2018  •493•    Further

According to the data of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia, published in ''White Book'', 2,419 enterprises were sold during the period 2002-2016 – 81 on tenders, 1,517 at auctions, 778 at the capital market, 41 through capital sales and two through selling of property. They employed 342,216 people, and the income obtained by selling the ex-public property amounted to 2,578 billion euros.
However, the process of privatization in Serbia has been characterized by a big number of cancelled sales agreements. The most frequent reasons have been the non-payment of sales installments, non-fulfillment of obligations concerning social or investment programs, change of the nature of business activities, as well as use of property violating the agreement provisions. Concerning the enterprises privatized by tenders and auctions, almost every third privatization was cancelled.
A CATUS analysis shows that 49 tender privatizations and 639 auction privatizations were cancelled, 688 in total.
Control over privatized enterprises, as in past years, is performed by the Ministry of Economy and it is based on reports of authorised auditors and the assessment of expert witnesses that buyers are obliged to submit. If they do not do this, the obligations which are the subject of control would be considered unfulfilled. In that case, they are granted the deadline of up to 60 days to do this, and if the demand is still not met, the agreement is cancelled. Investor's obligations also include a regular salary payment and abstaining from dismissals of redundant workers.

Growing Importance of Regional
Social and Economic Councils

15. June 2018  •492•    Further

CATUS President Orbovic participated in the first session of Economic and Social Council (SEC) held outside Belgrade, in Krusevac. Taking into consideration that local councils were already established in 19 Serbian cities, the social partners decided to do this more often.
The host of the meeting was the local council of Krusevac. At the very beginning the Minister of Labour, Djordjevic, said that having understood the importance of local social dialogue, the Government was willing to help the establishment of more of those bodies. “Our final goal is”, he insisted “to have a local SEC in every Serbian city”.
Making use of social partners’ and media presence, he tried to convince the audience that the Government had radically changed the way its predecessors treated unions in the past. “Then”, said Djordjevic, “the ministers usually did not react to unions’ and employers’ claims. Nowadays, we are much more responsible and ready to work together with you, because only thus we can build modern, strong and economically developed Serbia”. Of course, the Minister did not explain why the ILO Committee for Standards put the country on its “black list” - exactly for the lack of a substantial social dialogue.
Djordjevic also spoke about the budget surplus that could be used for assisting small and medium enterprises, and announced the adoption of laws on social entrepreneurship and temporary employment agencies.
Generally, the unions agreed with the part of Minister’s speech related to the importance of social dialogue at the local level. For them, local councils were the best place for formulating demands, while the central SEC could be compared to a think-tank which helped finding viable solutions to the problems.

Health Sector: Consumer Basket Still Unattainable

8. June 2018  •491•    Further

President of the Trade Union of Health and Social Care Employees of Serbia (affiliated to CATUS), Zoran Savic, has recently written a letter to Ministry of Health demanding an increase of wages in that sector. “The average wage”, he claims categorically “should correspond at least to the price of consumer basket”. According to him, the current situation is unbearable - the employees are underpaid and if radical measures are not undertaken, soon there will be no sufficient staff to offer necessary medical assistance.
By the notorious law adopted in November 2014 the wages of medical staff (and other public employees) were decreased by 10 %. Since then, their nominal growth has only been 7.06 % and never equalled the inflation which exceeded 9%. So today the real wages are lower than in 2014! Compared with those in the EU, the wages of our nurses (300 euros per month) and doctors (500 euros) seem quite miserable, not to mention those “at the bottom” who get only a minimum wage or even less.
Before 2014 the average wage in the health sector was higher than the national average but today it is bellow it. For example, to earn enough to buy a consumer basket one often has to work a month and a half. Therefore it is understandable that more and more young people are deciding to emigrate and look for a job abroad. The situation in Serbia is more critical than the one in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Srpska, Montenegro and Croatia, and one day, according to Savic, it might escalate to the point of no return “when we could see revived the 1989 Romanian scenario”.
In his letter Savic also said that Serbian President Vucic in his speeches often mentioned the unexpected budget surplus and the possibility of considerably raising wages in public sector. In the end he warned that “the employees had been waiting for five years, and had no more time left”.

Struggle in “Zastava” Weapon Factory Goes On

3. June 2018  •490•    Further

Because of the management’s unwillingness to participate in social dialogue and fulfill at least some of their claims, the workers of Kragujevac factory “Zastava Oruzje” went on strike on May 23. The next day, the Strike Committee met with Minister Vulin and his staff in the premises of the Government, however, the talks ended up without a result. The news contributed to mounting tensions in the company, which has been the subject of public interest for a long time. The strike was over only on May 28, when the majority of strikers decided to turn back to their work places. The company union has been perplexed by the move, but is almost sure that it was the result of heavy pressure exerted by the management.
Still, the unionists are not ready to give up the struggle. Their main claim is the exclusion of the company from the list of those that are to be privatized in near future. The workers, however, also demand better working conditions; cancellation of the decision to decrease their wages by 10 %; payment of 15,000 RSD (127 euros) bonus; and establishment of a commission supposed to find out who in the company has been responsible for its poor business results. Recently, a part of the bonus has been paid (10,000 RSD) and a visit of the Labour Inspection promised, but the anxiety concerning the future of the factory has remained.
The workers namely fear that the company might be bought by a local tycoon, notorious for his links with the ruling party and a place on the UN weapon traffickers black list. The additional doubts have been raised by the Government’s plans to modernize and build even new production units - on the eve of the privatization! The workers themselves are ready to see the company acquired by a well-known and credible armament producer, such as General Dynamics, Beretta or Remington, but they are afraid that none of these giants would accept control over only 15 to 49 % of the shares and thus lose possibility of fully influencing company’s business policy.
The Government reacted promptly and denied all allegations, but having lost confidence in its promises, the workers are highly skeptical about the future. They are mostly horrified by the perspective of mass dismissals and general decrease of wages in the case of privatization, and are ready to keep on fighting in order to avoid it or at least make it transparent.

Pensioners Don’t Trust President Vucic

1. June 2018  •489•    Further

President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, announced the abolition of the Law on Temporary Decrease of Pensions adopted in December 2014 which should result in their increase of 10.4 to 13.3%. The decision was taken after long and intense protests of CATUS and its affiliate – Association of Pensioners’ Trade Unions of Serbia (APTUS) followed by a recommendation of the IMF. However, the unionists say they lost confidence in President and are not ready to trust him easily.
“From our experience we got the feeling that this Government does not like pensioners who expect the restitution of pensions, part of which has been taken by the Law. For them we are simply a burden”, says Gradimir Ivanic, APTUS Vice-President. He warned Vucic that future correction of pensions did not mean that pensioners would give up the law-suit at European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Ivanic was also decisive about another Association’s claims i.e. the return of automatic adjustment of pensions to the cost of living twice a year and of payment of the sum illegally grabbed. “We cannot stand the continuous assaults on elder people anymore and are ready to fight until final victory”, he concluded.

Pensioners Want Their Pensions Back!

21. May 2018  •488•    Further

News on the IMF asking Serbian Government to increase pensions by bringing them back to their previous level appeared in the media and caused much turmoil in the public, especially because so far, Mr. Vucic has been stubbornly keeping silence on the issue. The elders who already lost hope that the anti-constitutional and shameful law on pension reduction, adopted at the end of 2014 for only a three-year period, would ever be revoked, are now ready to believe that the Government never had the slightest intention to do it.
When adopted, the law was named “temporary” because it was envisaged to be in force only until the end of 2017. Having no respect for the rule of law, say the pensioners, is not a good sign for the future and cannot contribute to the fulfillment of conditions necessary for Serbia’s accession to the European Union.
But this is only one of the evils among which are the abolition of the automatic twice-a-year adjustment of pensions to the cost of living, the scandalous Law on Pension Fund giving two thirds of seats in Administration Board to the Government, as well as the beginning of privatization of spas and sanatoriums built years ago with pensioners’ money.
Even if it may sound absurd, the Association of Serbian Pensioners’ Trade Unions expressed their gratitude to the IMF for the proposal given to Serbian Government. After all political parties have betrayed them, it has been the only voice favouring their righteous cause. A thought is immediately coming to one’s mind: Poor countries where the IMF appears as a defender of social justice!

New Law on Strike:
What Workers Get, and What They Lose?

17. May 2018  •487•    Further

In his interview to TV N1 Slobodan Lalović from the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia claimed that the Draft Law on Strike was better than the existing law while Slađana Kiković from TUC NEZAVISNOST said that trade union would not participate in a public debate because work group didn't take part in making the draft and didn’t believe that the text could be improved.
Lalović said that it was necessary to include certain improvements in the text of the Draft and expected it to happen at the work group meeting which was supposed to take place shortly after the end of public debate. He pointed out that the existing law envisaged the minimum of work process to be defined only by the employer, which was absurd and explained that by a new amandment the employers would no longer be entitled to that. He also stated that according to the current law strikers must not destroy employer's property, which could be interpreted very broadly, and now with only one provision this problem was to be solved.
On the other hand, Slađana Kiković from TUC NEZAVISNOST said that her union would not take part in a public debate because the work group hadn't been working on this text. According to her, the Draft Law wasn't a good solution and she doubted whether it could be improved. She was convinced that the definition of public interest when applied to strikes was too wide and practically copied from the existing law which was passed in 1996. Activities of general interest needed to be only those whose interruption would imperil population's health and safety.
Lalović agreed that there was a wide spectrum of activities of general interest, but considered it to be less important than defining the minimum of work process. His main criticism was that solidarity strike was allowed only within thesame branch, which didn’t make any sense.

SOFIA: ORBOVIC MEETING BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER

16. May 2018  •486•    Further

A day before the EU-Western Balkans Summit taking place in Sofia on Mаy 17, the CATUS President Orbovic – accompanied by colleagues Plamen, President of CITUB and Manolov, President of Potkrepa - had talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister, Borisov and Minister of Labour, Petkov.
Trade unionists handed to Mr. Borisov the Declaration “The Voice of Integration of the Western Balkans” adopted at trade union conference on May 9 and dealing with labour and social dimensions of the accession process. During the talks, special attention was devoted to the role of social dialogue and social partners in that process. The unionists restated that Governments should listen to what the unions say and make all documents related to negotiations accessible to social partners.
President Orbovic said that CATUS and the unions- members of the Regional Trade Union Council ‘Solidarnost’ appreciated the support given to them by Bulgaria in the accession process, especially to its social dimension. He stressed the importance of new investments, of strengthening and widening of infrastructure in the region and of job creation. The Connectivity Agenda should be coordinated with social partners and technological progress supported by adequate financial policies, he added.
At the end of the meeting the unionists required the same work conditions for migrants from the region and domestic workers in the European Union, particularly in what concerns working hours, paid leaves and salaries.

CATUS AT BIG INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION
CONFERENCE IN SOFIA

11. May 2018  •485•    Further

The result of the conference “The Voice of Integration of the Western Balkans” held on May 9 in Sofia on the eve of the EU-Western Balkans Summit, was the adoption of a Declaration dealing with labour and social dimensions of the accession process. Proposed by the Regional Trade Union Council “Solidarnost” grouping together the most relevant trade unions from ex-Yugoslavia, it was supported by many unions in the region and the European Trade Union Confederation.
The Declaration will be handed over to Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov and integrated into final document of the Summit (organized under the auspices of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union), which is expected to reaffirm the EU commitment to integration of its partners in Western Balkans. At the Conference organized by CITUB and Podkrepa, and supported by Friedrich Ebert Foundation and ETUC, the CATUS was represented by its President Orbovic, who is at the same time (until July this year) presiding “Solidarnost”.
Here you can read the entire text of the Declaration.
“The Voice of Integration of the Western Balkans”, Sofia, 9 May 2018
As the EU-Western Balkans Summit is about to take place in Sofia on 17 May 2018, under the auspices of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, at which the EU is expected to reaffirm its commitment to the integration of its partners in the Western Balkan countries and once again emphasise the region's place within the European family:

  • we, as trade union confederation members of the Regional Trade Union Council Solidarnost, namely: Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia, Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia, Union of Autonomous Trade Unions of Croatia, Confederation of Trade Unions of the Republika Srpska, Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, TUC NEZAVISNOST, Confederation of Trade Unions of Montenegro, Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro, Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia and Macedonian Confederation of Free Trade Unions;
  • together with the Free Trade Union Confederation of Kosovo (BSPK), the Union of the Independent Trade Unions of Albania (BSPSH), CARTEL ALFA National Trade Union Confederation Romania, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Confederation of Labour Podkrepa;
  • under the coordination of the ETUC – European Trade Union Confederation;
  • welcome the fact that the integration of Western Balkan countries is one of the EU priorities, and at a Conference on ‘The Voice of Integration of the Western Balkans’ held in Sofia, 9 May 2018, adopted the following declaration:
Declaration on New Labour and Social Dimensions of Western Balkans Integration in the European Union
Based on the fact that in Western Balkan countries, social partners are important social and economic actors and must be genuinely involved in the overall EU integration process, we call for the strengthening of their capacities by the supply of technical support and transparent inclusion in the EU integration process, particularly providing them with detailed and prompt information about the accession process. We also consider that it is very important for social partners in the Western Balkans to receive economic aid and access to European financial resources (EU Commission, European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) in order to establish functional and sustainable social dialogue. We think that laws subject to reforms during that process should not be introduced to governments and parliaments without being previously discussed thoroughly by social and economic councils. Such laws need to be introduced through normal, not fast-track procedures, and where there is a need for urgency, the participation of representative trade unions and employers’ organisations must be guaranteed.
In the future EU integration process, we invite the competent European institutions to continue to remind governments in the region that by implementing the EU social acquis in the area of labour and social rights they should not implement only the minimum standards they prescribe, but should apply higher ones, whenever possible, and always in cooperation with representative social partners. We call for the European Social Rights Pillar to be at the heart of the process of legislative harmonization in all its 20 priority areas to ensure decent minimum social protection floors in the candidate countries.
In the future EU integration process, it is necessary to provide for documents related to accession negotiations (primarily analytical reports and translations of the EU acquis) to be available, as well as to use the webpages of EU Delegations in the region for publishing the criteria necessary for the opening and closing of chapters. Representative social partners should actively participate in all expert and work groups which prepare negotiations on particular chapters and in all specific groups dealing with issues which are within the competence of social/economic councils. In this case, it would be extremely useful if the experience gained from the work of the 13 Joint Consultative Committees during the pre-accession period of the countries that joined the EU (2004-2013) is used by the new candidate countries.
When harmonising national and EU legislation it is necessary to analyse all possible social consequences of the amendments, especially their impact on vulnerable parts of the population and on workers’ rights, social protection systems, social dialogue and industrial relations. In this context, social partners should be involved in setting legal frameworks and capacity building measures, aimed at supporting upward convergence of working conditions and social inclusion, as well as developing efficient tripartite dialogue, social dialogue and collective bargaining.
By joining the ETUC Pay Rise Campaign and the Wage Convergence Alliance, we emphasize that this process should be implemented at company, national, regional and EU levels. Possible measures for prevention of brain-drain and limitation of migration outflows from the region are: better use of pull-push factors and wages in the EU-based multinational companies’ branches fully implementing the principle of equal pay for equal work.
We invite the EU to cooperate closely with social partners in order to develop the mechanism for pre-accession funds facilitating the direct participation of trade unions and employers’ organisations in the areas important for economic and social development, first and foremost in education. We demand more active involvement of trade unions in economic reforms and in reforms of labour markets, especially those aimed at reducing the gap between supply and demand in the labour force and high levels of unemployment.
We expect the so-called ‘Connectivity Agenda’ (transport, communication, energy, education, digital) to create well-functioning and fully integrated infrastructure networks both in the Western Balkans region itself and between it and the EU. And since this is about attracting major investments and potential opportunities for creating huge numbers of jobs, we insist that the social partners in the region and individual countries are consulted on the Connectivity Agenda.
Similarly, the trade unions and employers’ organisations from the Western Balkans should be included as active partners in identifying the right skills needed for the new jobs, better planning and linking policies in the fields of education, training and employment resulting from digitisation and Industry 4.0 in the region. We believe that, in the process of accession, new technologies and innovation must be backed up by strong economic and financial policies and fair tax systems that adequately fund social security.
Migrant workers from the region employed in EU countries must be guaranteed the right to work under the same conditions as workers in the destination countries, prohibiting exploitation and ensuring full equal treatment and sound integration policies, which should involve social partners.
Within the process of judicial reform, the national authorities in the region should make efforts to speed up the settlement of labour disputes and whenever possible, establish special court departments authorised to deal with labour legislation issues.


READ MORE

BIG RALLY OF KRAGUJEVAC WEAPON FACTORY WORKERS

10. May 2018  •484•    Further

Workers of Kragujevac factory "Zastava oružje" protested in Belgrade, dissatisfied because the Law on Arms and Military Equipment was adopted without considering their demand to exclude this company from privatization. They rallied in front of the Parliament building, where they submitted a letter for its President, Maja Gojković, in which they pointed out that they didn't agree with thе law.
President of the factory trade union, Dragan Ilić, said that the union had been criticizing the Government’s intention for years and trying to pinpoint all negative consequences of privatization, but nobody reacted to this. He had expected a continuation of negotiations with workers who were, however, excluded from the whole law adoption procedure.
Аt the rally It was said that the final objective of the privatization was the disappearance of military industry. Was the Government ready to give up our military industry after 160 years of its existence, asked the participants, shouting 'Thieves, thieves!' and showing red cards to those who passed the law.
"Zastava oružja" workers had organised several warning strikes before the draft law on arms and military equipment went into parliamentary procedure. They were mostly concerned about the provision envisaging privatization of up to 49% of factory's capital, which they firmly opposed. Still, the Parliament showed no respect for those concerns and adopted the law without modifications. The Presidency of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia sent solidarity message to the protestors and gave full support to their demands.

COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT IN DELFI-NOVI SAD SIGNED

9. May 2018  •483•    Further

The agreement providing employees with rights exceeding those guaranteed by the Labour Law was signed by the company trade union organization affiliated to CATUS and the employers.
In the American company whose management comes from Poland there are 3,800 employees, out of who 2,500 are employed full time and the rest work with fixed-time contracts. Company trade union has around 700 members, but the agreement which will be enforced in June covers all employees who hope for a pay rise in the future. The average wage in DELFI-Novi Sad at the moment is 40, 000 RSD (340 EUR).
The signing of the agreement was attended by the Secretary of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia, Zoran Mihajlović, CATUS Council Vice-President and President of CATU of Vojvodina, Goran Milić and President of CATU City Council of Novi Sad, Vladimir Gvozdenović.

CATUS CELEBRATED ITS 115th ANNIVERSARY

30. April 2018  •482•    Further

This year, the central manifestation was organized in Kraljevo, in the presence of all CATUS Council members, presidents of regional TU councils and branch unions, winners of this year’s trade union awards, Minister of Labour Djordjevic and Minister of Trade, Tourism and Tele-Communications Ljajic, President of the Union of Employers (UES) Nenezic, City Mayor Terzic, directors of public and private enterprises, politicians, as well as representatives of different foundations and institutions.
The program which started by Serbian national anthem and the International included a movie showing the past and present of our Confederation, a cultural block and a mono-drama on contemporary youth problems.
In his speech the CATUS President Orbovic underlined the importance of workers’ solidarity which had helped them acquire their rights in the past and was a guarantee for their enlargement in the future. He stressed the problems of the youth who were either unemployed or working and earning on conditions often deprived of decency and criticized the Government for giving subsidies to foreign investors instead of solving the problem of brain-drain converting Serbia into a country with no future.
Minister Ljajic said he always supported social dialogue and collective bargaining, and stressed the importance of having open communication channels with unions and working on reaching compromises. President of the UES Nenezic spoke about the important role strong unions played in successful economies. The greetings also came from the President of “Nezavisnost”, Stojiljkovic who could not attend the ceremony personally but congratulated “their most important trade union partner” and wished us “success in struggle with employers and Government leading to the improvement of social dialogue”.
At the end, traditional CATUS awards were given to those who particularly contributed to development and strengthening of the Confederation.

WORKERS IN MAGNETTI MARELLI:
AGREEMENT OR STRIKE

27. April 2018  •481•    Further

This time shocking news comes from the centre of Serbian car industry Kragujevac: by an annex to the new collective agreement, the management of company Magnetti Marelli (producing bumpers for FIAT 500L) unilaterally forbade strikes in the next three years! The reaction of CATUS company trade union categorically refusing to put their sign on the shameful document was furious.
President of the union Miljkovic said that in the case the negotiations failed and an alternative annex not offered to workers, they would resort to the most radical instrument of trade union struggle and organize a total blockade of production.
The management’s move came in the eve of acquisition of Magnetti Marelly by FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). The workers require a collective agreement identical to the one already in force in the Italian company, with no scandalous annex, of course. The union reminds directors of the two strikes which already took place in the factory in February 2017 and March 2018 and resulted in management’s acceptance of strikers’claim not to work on terms different from those applied to employees in FCA.
The takeover of one of Magnetti Marelly companies by FIAT started in October 2017 while the acquisition of the remaining two should be finished by May 1 this year.

EMPLOYEES IN POSTS OF SERBIA
TO PROTEST AGAINS

25. April 2018  •480•    Further

Yesterday unions affiliating almost all unionized workers in Posts of Serbia started a new wave of protests in front of the headquarters in Novi Sad, Belgrade (Zemun) and Nis. The reasons for this action are declining salaries and growing restrictions of labour rights. Workers were invited to gather every day from 6 to 11 p.m.
In a communiqué issued by the joint strike committee the unions ask for a considerable increase in wages able to bring them back to November 2014 level. They also require the payment of one-time assistance to all workers and election of a new manager who would replace the extremely unpopular director Ms. Petrovic.
The claims were sent to the Government more than a month ago. At that time, the unions proposed the dialogue as the best instrument for finding solutions acceptable for both sides, but the answer hasn’t arrived yet.

DGB DELEGATION VISITING CATUS

24. April 2018  •479•    Further

President of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia, Ljubisav Orbović talked to the representatives of German Trade Union Confederation DGB, Marcus Schlimmbach, DGB President of Saxony and Bernd Gunther, Chairman of Education Committee of the Industry Chamber of the City of Leipzig.
During the talk the information on trade union activities in the two countries were exchanged. The importance of bilateral cooperation and support that DGB provided in trade union activities were pointed out, especially in establishing true social dialogue.
CATUS President pointed out that in Serbia there was a huge number of German companies with 30,000 employees and added that Germany with around 1.8 billion euros was one of the countries with the biggest number of investors.
Even though most of these companies have established trade union organizations, there are employers who, contrary to the ILO Conventions and right to the freedom of association, don't want trade unions in their companies.
Speaking about trade union scene in Serbia, Orbović explained that unfortunately trade union pluralism didn't result in unity.
He mentioned that a big problem was a brain drain because young people were leaving the country in search of better life and higher salaries. At the conference entitled “Future of the world of work and modernization of trade union movement in Europe”, which was later on organized in CATUS premises, it was stressed that there was an increasing number of atypical jobs, precarious work, work on platforms. Traditional labour contracts were slowly becoming a thing of the past, the payment of salaries was done through vouchers. Also, analysis of the labour market which could identify relatively predictable trends and supply-demand ratio in the following period was missing.

TRADE UNION ASKS FOR A NEW AGREEMENT WITH FIAT

6. April 2018  •478•    Further

President of the Autonomous Trade Union of FIAT Chrysler company in Kragujevac, Zoran Marković, said that after a recent statement of the Prime Minister Ana Brnabić about the Italian company staying in Kragujevac, the employees were ready to demand a bigger involvement of the state. Namely, both trade union and the employees expect the Government of Serbia and FIAT to reach a new agreement as soon as possible, put it on paper and sign it.
President of FCA trade union said that upon signing a new agreement there were three issues important for the trade union and employees. “For us, the most important is to know when the prolonged basic agreement will expire, what a total number of workers will be and whether we will be working all the time, without interruptions”, said Marković, adding that for the past seven months the employees had many days off or were on paid leave, which severed their wages.
Workers have high hopes for the production of a new FIAT model and a 100% work engagement of all workers. The good news is that this morning, after this year's third interruption of work, the factory in Kragujevac renewed the production of FIAT 500L. After seven days without work, the workers started working in both shifts and they will produce 410 cars daily. We hope that the production would be continued in the same rhythm in the upcoming period, concluded Marković.

FAILURE OF NEGOTIATIONS IN “ZASTAVA WEAPONS”

4. April 2018  •477•    Further

Negotiations held on Tuesday April 3, 2018 between trade union and management of the factory Zastava Weapons аre said to be finished without results. Workers and management of the factory haven't managed to agree on the unpaid part of bonus which belongs to the employees. Negotiations were carried out for several months involving the mediation of the Agency for peaceful settlement of labour disputes.
Even though the management and Auditing Committee said the business of the factory had been run successfully, the workers' wages did not provide for the existential minimum (if one has in mind that consumer's basket is currently worth 67,000RSD, i.e. 568 euros). Despite the promise of the representatives of the Ministry of Defence, workers of Zastava Weapons haven't yet been excluded from the Government's decision on the 10% reduction of salaries, which aggravated their position additionally.
Dissatisfaction of workers is also caused by the fact that not a single demand that trade union committee of Zastava Weapons submitted to the Government of the Republic of Serbia and Ministry of Defence on January 15, 2018 was seriously considered. After taking into account all circumstances the strike committee will make decisions which should contribute to solving the problem while using all instruments of trade union struggle.

NEW PROTEST OF TRADE UNIONS
OF POST WORKERS OF SERBIA

31. March 2018  •476•    Further

About a month ago in the country and foreign media, many articles were written about big protests of Post workers in Serbia. Since the problems they put on the agenda haven't been solved, workers were forced again to demand justice in the streets.
On March 29, 2018 in Belgrade a new massive protest was staged by the PTT Trade Union of Serbia, PTT Trade Union „Nezavisnost“, Autonomous Trade Union of Post Workers and Trade Union „Solidarnost“, which all together cover almost all unionized workers in the company. The gathering started at 14:30 in front of the main Post building in Takovska street, after which protest walk took the protesters by the Parliament, over Nikola Pasic square, where CATUS headquarters are located, in front of the Presidency building, all the way to the premises of the Government of the Republic of Serbia. After that the demonstrators came back to the place from which the walk started.
The trade unions demanded pay rise for employees in public enterprise „Post of Serbia“, i.e. their return to the level preceding the reduction ordered by the decree of Serbian Government, pay-out of a one-time aid to employees and urgent appointment of a new director who would replace the extremely unpopular Mrs. Petrović. According to unionists, it’s her who is the person responsible for the blockade of communication channels between the management, employees and trade unions. They are convinced that through social dialogue and with a new director many problems, which are currently on the agenda, could be solved more successfully.
Trade union demands were submitted to the Government of Serbia, whose response would very much determine the further course of the trade union action.

GOVERNMENT TO KEEP HANDS OFF
PENSIONERS’ PROPERTY!

26. March 2018  •475•    Further

In its latest statement the Association of Pensioners’ Trade Unions of Serbia (APTUS) says it would submit a legal suite in order to see the money, which the Government owed to pensioners whose pensions were brutally mutilated, paid to their children and grandchildren. Only last year more than 80,000 pensioners died and it would be highly unjust to deprive their descendants of something which undoubtedly belongs to them. Mihailo Radovic, the Association’s President, says he already got in contact with some lawyers and is ready to request the payment not only of the debt but of interests, as well.
Radovic spoke about the “economic and social immorality” reigning in Serbia and mentioned the long silence of the Constitutional Court avoiding to deliver a verdict on Government’s illegal 25% reduction of pensions imposed a few years ago. The decree helped robbing 700,000 pensioners directly and one more million indirectly (by stipulating the abolition of traditional twice-a-year adjustment of pensions to inflation rate and GDP growth). “They delay the verdict because they know that by refusing our claims they are giving us the possibility to go to Strasbourg and defend our rights there”.
Another problem Radovic mentioned were two socially owned spas that Government intends to sell. He warned the Pension Fund, which is the nominal owner of all Serbian spas, not to succumb to political pressures as the APTUS is ready to defend its members’ rights at court. The issue was extremely delicate, he said, because the Law on Pension Fund was still being reviewed by the Constitutional Court and no rash moves should be made until the verdict had been pronounced.
The law was sent to Court because of norms changing the composition of its Administrative Board which, instead of twenty-one members should have only seven, four of them elected by the Government itself, one by the pensioners’ pro-Government party PUPS, one by the unions and one by the employers. It’s obvious that in case the draft is adopted, the Government will easily have a majority and always be able to impose its (neoliberal) will. The APTUS claims that 2.5 million workers and 1.7 million pensioners being represented by only one person would be absurd and highly unfair.

CATUS ON THE NEWEST GOVERNMENT CAMPAIGNS

20. March 2018  •474•    Further

At the recent press conference President Orbović presented CATUS position on the two newest campaigns of Serbian Government. He pointed out that CATUS Council supported Government's intention to build apartments at favourable prices for the staff of the Ministry of Interior, but added that the state would have to treat all employees equally and enable them to find a place to live under the same conditions. “That's why we're asking that also workers in industry, professors, doctors and all others contributing to the progress of society, but not having a possibility to find an apartment under market conditions, are enabled to solve this existential issue. Serbia can't exist without these workers who are the essence of this society and create the new value”, pointed out Orbović.
Besides, he said that this campaign was linked to another one, i.e. to the measures stimulating births and stopping the decrease of birth rate in Serbia. We can count on this only in ''a healthy state'', where salaries would be higher and regularly paid and new employment opportunities available. The problem of giving birth in Serbia exists primarily because of the increasing economic insecurity – it is hard to plan a family in a situation where jobs can be lost almost every day, and new ones are hard to find.
According to what Orbović says, first and foremost, state needs to take care of the young who wouldn't then decide to go abroad, but would stay at home and have more children. Also, it is necessary to have economic stimuli, such as the abolishment of taxes for baby equipment and baby food, having in mind that covering costs for only one baby requires three or four average salaries.

UNTAXED PART OF SALARY
GOING INTO BOSSES' POCKETS

8. March 2018  •473•    Further

Since the beginning of the year the amount of untaxed part of salary has increased, meaning that upon calculating January salary it equalled 15,000 RSD (127EUR) instead of earlier 11,790 RSD (100 EUR). Many employees hoped that this year's first salary might be higher because of such a cost reduction. However, disregarding those on a minimum wage, employees' January income wasn't higher, and even if it was, the increase was almost impercetible.
On the occasion of determining this year's minimum wage, employers insisted on a simultaneous increase of the untaxed part of salary in order to reduce their financial burden. This was done, but it's difficult to say who's a winner and who's a loser here. The fact is that the deposit of funds into Serbia's budget is now smaller, and salaries are unchanged, except for minimum wage which was increased from 130RSD to 143RSD per hour. It is obvious that the largest part of funds remained in employers' pockets while employers keep on complaining about ''various parafiscal charges, communal taxes and some other duties which still significantly burden their business”.
Since the beginning of this year the income of those on minimum wage has been higher because starting from January 1, 2018 minimum wage per hour amounts to 143RSD, which is 13 dinars more than last year. According to this, in January when there were 184 working hours minimum wage amounted to 26,312RSD while last year 23,920RSD were paid out for the same number of working hours. Consequently, the salary is now higher by almost 2,500RSD (around 20EUR). It seems that the rest of employees will have to wait for this.
President of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Vojvodina, Goran Milić, pointed out that in line with available data it couldn't be said that salaries were higher than last year, apart from minimum wage. “Knowing employers, some significant changes concerning salary increase can't be expected, and it would have been good if there had been some, even minimum ones“, said Milić and added that “he hoped something would change soon''.

BETTER PROTECTION OF RIGHTS OF
70,000 EMPLOYEES IN PUBLIC UTILITIES

2. March 2018  •472•    Further

Today Vice-President and Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović signed a branch collective agreement which will provide the protection of rights of 70,000 employees in public utilities. This branch collective agreement will be valid till 2021 and was signed by two representative trade union organizations, one member of CATUS and the other of TUC NEZAVISNOST. Mihajlović thanked unions for their partnership and pointed out that Government's goal was to make public utility companies more efficient and sustainable.
If possible, trade unionists in this branch asked for a 10% salary increase in the upcoming period. Minister replied that budget was stable at the moment and already this year salary increase was being considered. Branch collective agreement represents a basis for making collective agreements in different public enterprises and provides for more rights than the Labour Law does. It is extremely important for the employees that the collective agreement envisages mandatory payment of solidarity aid to all employees in public enterprises which make profit. This will approach average workers' revenue to the national average.
President of the Trade Union of Employees in Public Utilities of Serbia, Milan Grujić, thanked Vice-President of the Government for her understanding and support and emphasized that equal conditions for 70,000 employees had finally been achieved on the entire territory of Serbia. He also stressed that the signing of the agreement proved the existence of real social partnership.

ONE-DAY TRAINING FOR SECONDARY
SCHOOL STUDENTS IN CATUS

1. March 2018  •471•    Further

Being loyal to the idea that sympathy for trade unions should be developed since youth, Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia has recently hosted students from Correspondence law school from Zemun, who got familiar with the work, history and activities of the biggest trade union confederation in Serbia during this one-day training.
Around 60 students, headed by their economics teacher, Spomenka Paunović, Ph.D., had the opportunity to hear about the history of trade union movement in Serbia, activities related to social partners, employees' labour and social rights, international trade union movement, work of trade union youth section, as well as basics of office work.
CATUS Vice-President Duško Vuković, as well as representatives of CATUS international and economic departments and Youth Section talked to students.
It’s been planned is that during March and April two more groups of students from this school attend one-day training in CATUS.

BETTER DAYS FOR METAL INDUSTRY OF NOVI SAD

26. February 2018  •470•    Further

Demand for metal workers in Novi Sad is steadily growing, especially after the opening of the shop floors of companies "Delfi" and "Lear". In these companies more than 4,000 metal workers have been employed so far, and the good news is that a part of employees from old Novi Sad companies kept their jobs.
Autonomous Metal Workers' Union of Novi Sad is satisfied with the increase of number of metal workers, but also with the fact that they managed to achieve good communication with managements of "Lear" and "Delfi" and establish and strengthen their trade union organizations. They especially highlight the support and help they have received from their British colleagues from TUC and IndustiALL Europe. “In “Delfi” we are a representative trade union and hope to sign a collective agreement soon, which would help us safeguard workers' rights better”, says the representative of Novi Sad branch office and adds that in 'Lear' things are going a bit more slowly.
Big factories that Novi Sad was once famous for, such as "Jugoalat", "Jugodent", "Pobeda" and "Petar Drapšin", even if they had managed to survive, reduced the number of workers by more than 90%. Luckily, "Novkabel" keeps on working, but previously there were 4,900 workers in this company and now they are no more than 500. In "Jugoalat" there were 2,500 workers, and now factory barely works, while in "Jugodent" people lost hope they would ever start working again as their former factory had been transformed into a shopping center. "Pobeda" used to have more than 5,000 workers, and now there are about a hundred. Old metal workers still keep the memory of the period before the war and sanctions when this sector employed almost 20,000 workers and its products were sold in all parts of the world.
In the Industrial Association of the Chamber of Commerce of Vojvodina, they say that in spite of all challenges the metal sector still keeps its vitality. As a proof they point to the fact that around 4,000 metal companies, with 25,000 employees and 375 million euros profit were registered in Vojvodina last year, the growth rate of particular segments in the branch (primarily production of machines and equipment) being around 60%. Therefore, the Chamber thinks that metal sector proved it was able to deal with competition at the global market and still had the future ahead.

FISCAL COUNCIL SUPPORTING PENSIONERS’ CLAIMS

12. February 2018  •469•    Further

The Fiscal Council of the Republic of Serbia has recently issued a statement whereby it indirectly suggested to the Government to review its decision of 2015 on the 20% decrease of pensions exceeding 40,000 dinars (250 euros). The Council found no economic reason to justify the stay in force of the decree and hinted at big losses the budget might suffer in case the ECHR verdict is in favour of pensioners. In this way it de facto put itself in line with claims of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia (CATUS) and its Association of Pensioners’ Trade Unions (APTUS) that went even further arguing that the move of the Government had been anti-constitutional.
“The measure taken by the Government at the end of 2014 could have been justified at the time of the pending public debt crisis. However, since 2017 that danger is almost non-existent and the debt has been firmly decreasing, so there are no more economic reasons for keeping the pensions at such a low level”, says the Council’s latest document and explains that in case the pensioners win the trial at Strasbourg and the Government is obliged to pay them mass compensation, Serbian budget might be under serious pressure.
The document clearly proves that the decrease of pensions has disturbed the equilibrium between the total sum of contributions paid to the Pension Fund and the mass of pensions paid to senior citizens; that at the moment the payment of full pensions would be quite feasible; that there is no excuse for further austerity within the pension system; that the Government should seriously take into consideration the pensioners’ possible victory at the European Court.
Especially irritating for the APTUS is the fact that while the Government’s arbitrary decision was seriously harming pensioners’ interests, nothing was done to curb tax evasion, which in December last year reached 200 million euros. Is there a better proof of the capital’s grip over political authorities than the behavior of Serbian Government: the brutal pension cuts would not have been necessary at all if only the employers had been forced to pay their huge debts.

NEW PROTEST IN ARMAMENTS INDUSTRY

8. February 2018  •468•    Further

Workers of “Zastava-Oruzje” organized a march through the city of Kragujevac and delivered a list of their claims to Mayor Nikolic asking for his support in preventing the company’s collapse. A business report illustrating the crisis through which the company has been passing was also enclosed. The workers count on the fact that City still owns a part of company’s shares and might be ready to assist in the application of a “shock-therapy”, which according to them is the only way to make production and work places survive.
However, the real “big players” in this complicated game are the Government and Development Fund which control together 70% of the shares (the main part of the remaining 30% being the so called “social capital” - remnants of the old socialist epoch). That is why the unions plan to go to Belgrade and have a meeting with high Government officials. So far, they haven’t been successful in doing that, the only result of their efforts being a meeting with the Minister of Defense which brought no tangible results. Still, the unionists are far from despair and hope to see the social dialogue revived.
Mayor Nikolic said the City had a moral obligation towards the company and was ready to act as a mediator between the Ministry and the workers. He promised to put the problem of “Zastava-Oruzje” on the agenda of both Prime Minister and President of the Republic and reminded about the role the local Government played during the last strike in “FIAT”.
The protest in front of the City Hall started at 11 o’clock and lasted one hour, main claims being the payment of a 25,000 dinar (200 euros) bonus to all workers and investigation into the decision-making process which brought the once profitable company almost to catastrophe. The workers are fiercely opposing the announced 49% privatization of the enterprise and are ready to “fight the hell-scenario till the last breath”. They also hope that Ministry of Defense and Government will make some investments and improve working conditions in the factory where many workers already caught serious professional diseases.

EDUCATION: VALIDITY OF THE CURRENT
AGREEMENT TO BE PROLONGED?

7. February 2018  •467•    Further

Three out of four major teachers’ unions agreed with the Ministry’s proposal to have the validity of collective agreement for elementary and secondary schools prolonged for a year. The Union of Employees in Education (USPRS) was the only one against it. President of the Teachers’ Union of Serbia (a member of CATUS), Valentina Ilic, is convinced that the unions agreeing to the proposal are right and gives the example of trade unions in health service and culture which also accepted the proposed prolongations.
Saying that a draft of the new collective agreement which stipulated a smaller salary reduction during sick leaves (25% instead of 35 %) and shorter working time for teachers approaching the retirement (18 hours instead of 20) was a better solution for TUS as well, Ilic explains that the Ministry’s proposal was nevertheless accepted as the unionists feared that after February they might be left without any agreement at all.
Federations which accepted the proposal are aware that it’s not a perfect solution but they assert that the current agreement was still a result of a massive strike, which gave it a rather pro-labour shape. “Between two evils it’s always better to choose the lesser”, they say.

PENSIONERS: 40,000 CLAIM FORMS READY FOR STRASBOURG

29. January 2018  •466•    Further

More than 40,000 Serbian pensioners already sent claim forms to Pension and Disability Insurance Fund with a request to see their losses compensated. They were caused by the Government’s decision to illegally diminish by 20% pensions exceeding 25,000 dinars (approximately 200 euros). If the compensation is not paid, they are ready to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The action has been initiated and coordinated by Serbian Association of Trade Union of Pensioners, a member of CATUS.
During a press-conference, its President Mihailo Radovic appealed to all pensioners whose pensions were diminished by the decision of November 2014 to send their claims to the Association and help its efforts to restore the justice, brutally pushed aside by the Government’s flagrant violation of the law. He promised legal assistance to all of them, although he was skeptical about the possibility of winning the case within Serbian judicial system. However, if it happens, there would be no need to seek the EU shelter, he said.
Radovic reiterated that Association asked the Government to increase pensions and added that by doing that it should take into consideration the inflation and growth of the country’s GDP since 2014, the year when the pensions were mutilated. He insisted that since then “740,000 pensioners were expropriated directly and all the rest indirectly, as for the last three years there was no harmonisation between the pensions and the inflation/GDP growth”.

HEALTH SECTOR: FULL SALARIES FOR STAFF
AFFECTED BY CONTAGIOUS DISEASES

25. January 2018  •465•    Further

Trade Union of Employees in Health and Social Care asked the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and the Parliament to amend the Labour Law and Law on Health Insurance, and stipulate the payment of full salaries to medical staff getting ill during the epidemics of contagious diseases. The salaries should be calculated starting from the last twelve-month average.
According to the existing legislation, those who are on a sick leave get only 65% of their regular salaries, which is highly unfair when it comes to medical staff. They shouldn’t be punished for sacrificing themselves when giving necessary assistance to those infected by contagious deceases.
The appeal came after the epidemic of measles broke out in Serbia a few months ago affecting already more than 2000 people, among them some of the medical staff.

GOVERNMENT WILL KEEP CONTROL
OVER WEAPON INDUSTRY

23. January 2018  •464•    Further

At a meeting of Government officials and trade union representatives of six Serbian weapon production factories, held in the Ministry of Defense, it was agreed that the key matters such as ownership model and status of employees are to be defined by the amendments to the Law on Production and Trade of Weapons and Military Equipment. According to the agreement the Government is to keep 51% of factories’ shares and not a single worker is to be dismissed.
“Having more than 50% of the shares, the Government will be able to appoint its people to Administration Boards, a fact that will enhance workers’ sense of security”, says Branko Petrovic, president of the company trade union organization in “Krusik”, Valjevo and adds: ”The Law also stipulates that no individual owner is allowed to possess more than 15% of companies’ shares. However, I think this should not be an obstacle to further investments as production in this sector usually brings much profit”.
Due to the new agreement, the already announced warning strike that should have increased pressure on the Government in the eve of the debate on the new Law has been taken off the agenda. The unions’ fears were mostly stirred up by the possibility of “suspicious” capital taking over the sector of armaments.

CATUS: LABOUR LAW TO BE AMENDED

16. January 2018  •463•    Further

The Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia reported it sent a letter to Serbian Government with proposals to have the Labour Law amended. The amending, according to CATUS, should help revive branch collective agreements in industrial sector and stop the growing exploitation of workers. If the Article 257 of the Law remains as it is, the branch collective agreements shall gradually disappear because of the inability of employers' associations to reach the census legitimizing them as social partners. The consequences for Serbian workers would be fatal, warn unionists.
„Currently, if the employers' associations are to sign branch collective agreements which are to be extended and applied to all employees in the sector, they need to employ more than 50% of employees therein”, confirms the CATUS announcement and states it's the consequence of the amendment to Labour Law passed in 2014.
That amendment negatively affected more than a million industrial workers – mostly in construction, agriculture, metal industry and chemistry – because they have been doing the same job without getting the same salary i.e. the one determined by the collective agreement. Workers have been left to the mercy of the employers, got lower salaries and have been pushed into poverty.
Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia expects from the Government and Ministry of Labour to accept this initiative, abolish the high census, equalize rights and obligations of the employees within industrial sectors and help reduce disloyal competition and social dumping.

TWO YEARS OF WORKERS' JOINT-STOCK
COMPANY “ARMATURE”

12. January 2018  •462•    Further

At the anniversary of “Armature” AD in Aleksandrovac, President of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia, Orbovic visited this company which represents a rare example of successful privatisation in our country. Namely, it was acquired by the consortium of its own workers, the help of CATUS at that occasion being of utmost importance.
Workers bought the factory two years ago. At the time 386 workers took part in privatisation and today there are 500 people working in the factory.
According to what workers themselves say, CATUS and President Orbovic contributed a lot to the decision of the authorities to adopt a privatisation model where workers' consortium could also take part. After all, the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia has always advocated for privatisation in the form of workers' joint-stock companies, whose perfect example is the “Armature”.
The “Armature” exports more than 95% of its production, average salary is 40.000 RSD (340 euros) and all obligations towards workers, suppliers and the State are fulfilled regularly.
During his visit to the “Armature” President Orbovic was accompanied by CATUS Council Secretary, Zoran Mihajlović and President of Autonomous Metal Workers' Union of Serbia, Zoran Vujović.

PRODUCTION RESTARTED AT FIAT-CHRYSLER

11. January 2018  •461•    Further

This happened yesterday after the end of collective winter holiday which began on December 12. The restart involved mostly the production of model FIAT 500L. President of FCA company trade union, Zoran Marković said that employees worked in two shifts producing around 200 cars a day. FCA currently employs 2,400 workers.
Marković reminded that a ten-year agreement on joint investment in Kragujevac car factory , signed by FIAT and Government of Serbia, would expire in 2018 and added that trade union believed it would be prolonged and FIAT would stay in Kragujevac. “According to our estimates, 2018 is a decisive year because we expect extension of the agreement, as well as the beginning of production of a new model which should bring more work for the workers”, said Marković.
He confirmed that in February FCA workers would receive their January salary including the second part of the increase which had been agreed last summer after the negotiations following a long and conflicting strike. In line with the agreement, the salary would be increased by 9.54%, meaning that the lowest gross basic amount for the first salary grade would be 42,250 RSD (360 euros).
This morning, after a collective winter holiday, the companies in the industrial zone "Grošnica" which cooperate with FIAT-CHRYSLER and supply the car factory with parts, have also started working.

WORKERS DON'T WANT TYCOONS
IN WEAPON FACTORIES

22. December 2017  •460•    Further

Trade unions of employees in weapon industry jointly condemned the way the Ministry of Defence introduced the Law on Production and Trade in Weapons and Military Equipment into parliamentary procedure. According to them, an act which could decisively determine the future of one of the most profitable industrial branches in Serbia should be the result of a broad social dialogue.
Trade unionists in companies Zastava weapons, Prva iskra, Krušik, Prvi partizan, Milan Blagojević and Sloboda are embittered by the fact that the Draft sent to these factories on December 13 was delivered only to company managements and not to workers’ organizations. For them, this is another proof that social dialogue in Serbia is rather a fiction than reality.
“It is scandalous that the Ministry of Defence hides the final version of the Draft from the trade unions and demands the company managements to state their views about this legal act in a couple of hours. The Draft, as we have found out, has a series of new provisions that nobody in the defence industry of Serbia has seen up to now. It is completely untrue that it has been harmonized with us, as those in charge say” – states the trade union announcement, conveying the message that numerous provisions of the proposed law „are detrimental to factories and workers“, while „a huge number of issues that are important for them has remained unsolved“. People are especially worried by the fact that the Draft of law is supposed to go into the parliamentary procedure urgently, i.e. during the New Year's holidays!
Workers are enraged the most by the part of the Draft which envisages the privatization of their factories, by introducing into the game not only the well-known foreign investors, but also domestic ones. For them, it is unacceptable that factories of strategic importance for the country's defence might get into the possession of highly suspicious people. They fear that in case domestic tycoons become privatization actors too, there might be massive dismissals of workers, as it happened in almost all factories which have gone to Serbian entrepreneurs for the past 15 years.
Due to all of this, trade unions demand that “the introduction of the Draft into parliamentary procedure be stopped, until issues of vital importance both for the factories and employees have been resolved” and emphasize that “otherwise, the employees will be forced to use all trade union instruments in order to safeguard the survival of factories and labour rights”.

MORE INEQUALITY IN SERBIA THAN IN EU

18. December 2017  •459•    Further

Income inequality in Serbia is much bigger than in any other EU member state – this was a conclusion drawn at the end of a conference which took place in Belgrade and was organized by the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia and TUC NEZAVISNOST in cooperation with Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
For the past three decades inequality grew in most of the countries in the world. In Serbia it was caused primarily by the transition into neoliberal capitalism i.e. by privatization, increase of unemployment and deterioration of the social security system. Data of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia show that there is more inequality here than in the EU and even more than in the ex-YU republics.
Despite the information on the alleged decrease of unemployment in past year and a half, the intensity of work in Serbia is still very weak. The percentage of those with a weak work intensity is 21.2% (about a fifth of population under the age of 60), which is twice as high as the EU average (10%).
These are the people who work less than two and a half months a year, and there are around 150,000 of them at the moment. The worst is that survey by survey their number has been incessantly increasing.
In addition, Serbia spends very little on the two main social contributions meant for the poorest, and those are social welfare and child bonus – in total only 0.6% of GDP, which is much less than in the EU. The absence of a real progressive income tax additionally helps widen the gap between the rich and the poor, the reason for that being the neoliberal policy of the present Government favourising mostly the interests of investors and the rich.

DON'T SELL SPAS, BUT INVEST IN THEM!

10. December 2017  •458•    Further

Serbia still hasn't got a long-term plan for the future of 25 specialized hospitals in domestic spa centers that Serbia was once famous for. Also, there is a lack of money for much needed investments. This isn't sustainable in the long-run, and privatizing sanatoriums by all means isn't a good solution, it was said at the debate held in the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia and organized by its Association of Pensioners. On that occasion all aspects of development and transformation, i.e. privatization of spas and sanatoriums, as well as the possibilities and privatization models, were taken into account. Having in mind that this is one of the most important resources that our country has at its disposal, every solution will, as the CATUS Association of Pensioners warned, have a negative effect on our entire pension and health system. However, the issue of privatizing spas and rehabilitation centers doesn't only have economic, social and organizational dimension, but also political one. Due to the growing poverty of people in general and of guests who come to spas, their management doesn’t earn enough so that they could invest. And the Western concept of spa centers isn't applicable because of the nature of clients who visit them here. Pension and Disability Insurance Fund, as the owner of almost all hospitals within spas, shouldn't sell them, but use this property (into which the money of insured persons has been invested for decades) as a long-term source of income for the Fund. In ten years the Fund would get stronger and able to invest. Pensioners agreed that the state should pass a document containing a vision for the future: what will the Government do about the spas and how they will be developed in the next ten years. That document should precede the beginning of privatization which could otherwise become fatal.

NEW SUCCESS OF TRADE UNION OF CULTURE

8. December 2017  •457•    Further

After the Government gave firm guarantees that salaries of workers in culture would be increased, the Presidency of Autonomous Trade Union of Culture (affiliated to the CATUS) decided to cancel both its public session and general strike planned for December 5 and 6. The decision to organize these two actions was taken after Prime Minister Ana Brnabic announced that only the institutions financed from the budget of the Republic of Serbia would get a 10 % increase while the others were to count on only 5 %. By doing so the Government has shown it was ready to violate Serbian laws and Constitution, a fact that ATUC could not accept. The unionists were ready to use all legal means to make Government treat all employees in public sector equally. In order to intensify the pressure it invited the employees in culture who got the 10% increase (as dependent from the central budget) to stand by their 9,570 colleagues from regional institutions who were given only 5 %. It’s interesting that at the press conference organized on that occasion only one journalist (from Radio Belgrade 2) was present while the others did not dare or simply did not want to inform the public about union’s demand. Does it mean that they were all ready to become accomplices of our neoliberals?

GOVERNMENT PUSHES TEACHERS INTO STRIKE

6. December 2017  •456•    Further

Encouraged by the fact that 2018 bonuses are envisaged for certain budget beneficiaries, Presidents of the Teachers' Trade Union of Serbia, Teachers' Branch Union "NEZAVISNOST" and Trade Union of Employees in Education of Serbia asked for an urgent meeting with President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić.
In the letter sent to Vučić three unions reminded him that according to branch collective agreement employees in elementary/secondary schools and student dormitories had the right to New Year's bonus whose amount is negotiated every year by the Government and representative trade unions.
"In June 2015 you promised trade union representatives the payment of a financial assistance in the amount of 5,000RSD/ per employee. During the strike of employees in education in 2014 and 2015 you also promised that their salary would be continuously increased in order to reach those of other budget beneficiaries. Based on what was said here, the conclusion is that you and the Government of Serbia are in fact pushing teachers into strike, causing damage to society as well as indirect and unpredictable harm to students", said the letter signed by the President of Teachers' Trade Union of Serbia, Valentina Ilić, President of Teachers' Branch Union "NEZAVISNOST", Tomislav Živanović and President of Trade Union of Employees in Education of Serbia, Slobodan Brajković.

LABOUR INSPECTION IN POST OF SERBIA

1. December 2017  •455•    Further

The intervention, aimed at determining whether 47 workers who took part in recent protests were suspended in accordance with the law, is the response to the demand made by the CATUS. It’s true that in order to express discontent with their social status and attitude of the General Manager workers gathered in front of the company building, but they did it outside of normal working hours. The CATUS is convinced that suspension represents grave violation of employees’ rights.
In its statement to the press the CATUS leadership claims that management’s allegation of “breach of work discipline” is false. “The protests took place in evening hours, outside of normal working hours, so there is no reason to talk about any “breach”, say CATUS experts and add that “the criteria used for choosing the 47 workers who would be suspended at time when hundreds of fellow-protesters were in the street are highly questionable”. It is obvious, they conclude “that case by case, the same behaviour was judged differently”.
The call made to the Labour Inspection was only the first step, the next – according to CATUS – could be a lawsuit.

STRIKE IN POST OF SERBIA GOES ON

24. November 2017  •454•    Further

Yesterday there were new pressures on the employees of the “Post of Serbia” not to strike, while the members of the Strike Committee were prohibited from entering branch offices. Trade union came into possession of an intern e-mail which was sent to sub-managers' addresses and which makes clear that five out of eight members of the Strike Committee were prohibited from entering the premises.
The order was given by the Director, Mira Petrović who is also Vice-President of the Party of Pensioners (PUPS). It violates the Labour Law because among the members of Strike Committee there are employees who have not been suspended. Prohibiting employees from entering the premises of the 'Post', the Director has not only prevented them from working. If the obedient sub-managers stuck blindly to the order of the arrogant Director, the workers would also be prevented from entering there as citizens and pay, for example, their bills for electricity, water etc
Strike started yesterday and today at 5 pm the workers will stage a protest march from their headquarters in Takovska Street, then over Branko's bridge and back.
“We don't know precisely the total number of our workers who have been on strike today in Serbia. Regardless of the number, they showed courage in a situation where people are usually afraid. As you could see, the employer is also threatening us, trade union leaders. But we are not giving up the strike and will stop only when the suspension of our colleagues has been cancelled and the director pushing our enterprise into disaster, replaced”, said Zoran Pavlović, President of the Autonomous Trade Union of Post Workers. It's still not completely clear why the Government has been putting such an effort to keep at this post a person who isn't adequately qualified and whose mandate expired two months ago. Most probably, this is a favour due to a coalition partner, the PUPS.
Workers haven't been threatened directly, but there were pressures in the form of ‘recommendations’ such as ‘what you are doing isn't smart' or 'you are risking to be transferred'. Be as it may, there have been 43 employees suspended so far in line with the Director's order. However, the trade union isn't giving in, and the fight with a totally uncertain outcome continues.

POST OF SERBIA: SUSPENSION OF WORKERS
MAKES TENSION GROW

21. November 2017  •453•    Further

During two weeks a part of employees who work in J.P. Poste Srbije (Post of Serbia - Public Enterprise) who are members of our Confederation, have been protesting in front of company buildings in Belgrade and Novi Sad where the reception and distribution of postal items are carried out. The number of participants has varied from a few dozen to a few hundred but the protest action was going on continuously for days and nights. Two most important demands were the increase of salaries (generally not exceeding 300 euros per month) and possibility of going on vacation (the cut in personnel which occurred in last few years preventing many workers from using that right).
Early in the morning of the fourteenth day (i.e. two weeks after the beginning of the protest) the police intervened and removed the workers. Some of them were arrested and after short time released.
After this incident, the company management adopted repressive measures and suspended 47 workers from work. They are running a risk of being dismissed regardless of the fact that some of them are trade union activists. The main proves against them are the photos taken by video-cameras, which is contrary to the article n. 9 of the Law on Protection of Personal Data.
In continuation of this event, today November 21, the employees organised a strike and different protest actions. The problem is that all members of the strike committee (except two of them) have been suspended from work.
The CATUS keeps on giving technical assistance to striking workers and inviting management to accept dialogue with them, but so far without any success.

BELGRADE PUBLIC UTILITIES: PROBLEM OF
PRECARIOUS WORKERS WILL BE SOLVED?

20. November 2017  •452•    Further

At the meeting with the representatives of the biggest trade unions of public utilities in Belgrade and directors of those companies Mayor of Belgrade, Siniša Mali, said that city authorities would improve the status of employees who had been engaged on temporary and seasonal jobs or for a definite period of time - five, ten years or longer.
He stressed that he was aware they didn't have the right to sick leave, access to solidarity fund, nor the possibility to take a credit from a bank, in spite of the fact that the functioning of certain companies or services depended strongly on them - and promised that the problem would be solved soon. Mali is convinced that the Government of Serbia could somewhat help in this respect.
The mayor also announced the signing of new collective agreements in the next month or month and a half. This could certainly contribute to better atmosphere in companies and higher quality of services, he concluded.
President of the Trade Union of Public Utilities of Belgrade, Aleksandar Radojević, stressed that the problem of people who weren't employed full time in public utilities was among the biggest trade union problems. “Public utilities need them very much and because of that I hope that the problem will be solved”, he added and showed hope that “dialogue with city representatives would be constructive and creative”.

NO TRADE UNION SUPPORT FOR
DRAFT LAW ON PUBLIC EMPLOYEES

17. November 2017  •451•    Further

At the last session of Social and Economic Council two representative trade unions were against it and refused to give their consent. Nevertheless, the Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, Ruzic, said the draft would be put to vote, first to the Government and later on to Parliament. Commenting the result of negotiations, CATUS President Orbovic explained that the proposed document enjoyed support of majority of federations, but was rejected by unions of education and culture. There was no consensus on salary increase either, he added.
Orbovic said that unionists would demand a meeting with Prime Minister Brnabic. “There are so many protests in public sector because of low wages – in state-owned TV, Pension Fund, health service, public utilities and, of course, in Post of Serbia where employees get only 37,000 dinars (313 euros) per month and it’s less than Serbian average”, he concluded explaining the unions’ demand.
In 2014 Serbian Government reduced salaries in public sector by 10 % causing great discontent among more than 600,000 employees. Since then, to come back to previous level and even exceed it was one of the main unions’ objectives. In November the Government announced some increase, but not for all. New draft would leave 100,000 to 150,000 employees without it, a fact that made the above-mentioned federations firmly deny their consent.
However, the Government’s proposal was supported by the employers who claim that the salary increase in public sector must be strictly linked to the growth of the GDP. President of their Union, Atanackovic, said that taking into consideration that this year the growth was expected to be rather small, not all in the sector could be entitled to see their salaries grow.

EMPLOYERS MUST PAY UNPAID SALARIES

12. November 2017  •450•    Further

The association of workers-victims of dismissals in bankrupt companies- “Solidarnost”, together with CATUS City Trade Union Council of Novi Sad have initiated the creation of a list of such employees on its territory in order to defend their rights in bankruptcy cases. If the deadlines are met, the workers have a real chance to get their unpaid salaries – with the accumulated interest rate. Unfortunately, the action will not cover those who ended up their carriers in privatised companies, but only the ones who worked in socially or state owned enterprises.
“Solidarnost” was founded after workers of textile factory “Letex” in Leskovac managed to have their company’s debts paid. The City Council invites all workers from the region entitled to unpaid salaries to come to its office and fill in necessary forms. One of them is the authorisation letter for lawyer who will defend them at court. The intention is to spread the action all over Serbia and after collecting a sufficient number of signatures, submit a complaint to Constitutional Court, which should make the existing verdicts legally enforceable. Next step would be a meeting with Government representatives.
President of the City Council, Vladimir Gvozdenovic, says there are more than 100.000 workers waiting for years to see their salaries paid. The estimated total amount of debt approaches 400 million euros, he adds, and confirms that after using all domestic juridical means CATUS is ready to turn to European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

POSTAL WORKERS RAN OUT OF PATIENCE

8. November 2017  •449•    Further

In order to get their salaries increased and have their labour and social rights respected, the Autonomous Union of Postal Workers decided to go on strike and organise street protests in the centres of Belgrade and Novi Sad.
For a long time the Union has been trying to turn the attention of the public to the problem of management which has been appointed mostly due to their personal ties or party connections. They took the job of those working successfully in the Post for years, but who had to leave or were marginalised.
The situation was additionally exacerbated by the statement made by General Director, Mrs. Petrovic, who called the workers’ action “inappropriate”. “The only inappropriate thing is your perdurance at the post of General Manager”, responded unionists and invited her to explain what qualifications and experience she had for her job.
The current postal workers’ protest has been one of the most radical actions on the trade union scene in past ten years. Only cash payments are made while letters and parcels have been accumulating in post offices for days, the delays causing enormous losses to users. In order to make their action more efficient the workers have blocked the main post-office in Zemun, part of Belgrade. Drivers working in Post have joined the strike.
Closed in her cabinet General Director, Petrovic has no intention to keep her promise and inform workers about possible increase of their miserable salaries (37.000 dinars i.e. 313 euros per month). Some labour and social rights are also at stake.
This behaviour has pushed workers to cut any further contact with General Director and turn to Minister of Telecommunications, Ljajic. “We asked Minister to say whether there is possibility to see our standard of living increased and we are firmly sticking to our decision not to lift blockade of the post office until we get his answer”, say workers preparing the escalation of their action.

KRAGUJEVAC: TRADE UNION IN ARMS
FACTORY AGAINST PRIVATISATION

6. November 2017  •448•    Further

Working class of the biggest industrial center of Central Serbia has given another proof of its developed class-consciousness. Employees in the factory which celebrated its 164th anniversary have decided to stand up for their rights and oppose the privatisation planned by General Manager Brzakovic. Unionists are convinced that management is intentionally devastating the factory in order to sell it at the cheapest possible price.
Brought at the post of General Manager as a pensioner, Mr. Brzakovic has been doing everything possible to destroy the very centre of Serbian arms industry, which for the past two centuries has been the source of livelihood for more than 10,000 citizens of Kragujevac and played an important role in the economic and social development of the country.
Workers can’t understand how it’s possible that he is pushing for the sale of the company when everyone knows that exactly during privatisation the employees were generally robbed of their property, deprived of their rights and brutally exploited. Privatisation was one of the major factors of the economic and social decline of Serbia and the deindustrialisation which can hardly be matched to any other in Europe.
Trade unions remind the public that at the time machinery in many factories was simply dismantled and sold as scrap iron. “Should we end up as many other factories and workers who simply disappeared from the economic map of the country in the process of privatisation? How the political elite dares to propose such remedy knowing that after its use many people remained without any dignity and future? How it’s possible they appointed to the post of the captain a person incapable to save a sinking ship?”, ask the workers and point to the fact that they themselves invested into the renewal of the factory after it was bombed during the brutal NATO aggression and later when the Government denied to grant it any assistance.
“We shall fight for our factory – at work places, in offices and streets - and try to defend it any cost. In order to make the fight successful me must stay united. Our conception of the future is different from that offered to us by the employers and the Government. The profit must be at the service of the factory and its workers”, conclude those standing behind the manifest that shook Serbian public. Because nowadays it’s hard to hear voices thundering against the neoliberal philosophy which, sanctifying the right to private property forgets that it originated from the brutal denial of majority’s social ownership.

WHISTLE-BLOWER DISMISSED

2. November 2017  •447•    Further

The seriousness of the case is confirmed by the fact that the dismissed worker is President of the CATUS trade union organisation in Raca municipality. The only infraction colleague Veljkovic committed was the disclosure of machinations that took place during the privatisation of the company Zastava Elektro and his brave decision to go to police and report it.
The Municipality management decided to dismiss Veljkovic although (according to the criteria set by the recent law on maximum number of employees in public sector) there were no redundancies and he was the only person specialized in heating, fire protection and maintenance of the building.
CATUS is convinced that Veljkovic will win the battle in the trial courtroom, but the case shows all the precariousness of the status of trade unions in today’s Serbia. It’s, however, just the visible top of an iceberg: in the last few years there were many more activists who were sent to trials, had to pay fines and got exposed to inexplicable “controls” and “inspections” initiated by the employers and authorities. Taking all this into consideration, we shall need to look for additional support from domestic and international public.

ORBOVIC: GOVERNMENT TO STOP
UNJUST TREATMENT OF PENSIONERS

30. October 2017  •446•    Further

Not long ago the CATUS President Orbovic appealed to Prime Minister Ana Brnabic reminding her that the amendments to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance, adopted in 2014, considerably worsened pensioners’ status, especially the article 70a stipulating that those going into early-retirement should see their pensions diminished by 0.34 % for every month up to 65 years of age (regular retirement age). In this way, many elder who orderly contributed for years to Pension and Disability insurance Fund will be unjustly punished, particularly by the fact that the reduction should last till the end of their lives, he wrote.
Taking into consideration that even before the radical diminution in 2014 the pensions were rather law, the CATUS demanded the Economic and Social Council to consider the abolishment of the controversial rule. According to the unionists the reduction of 0.34 5 per month could stay but after 65 years of age pensioners should get the full pension.
At the end of the appeal Orbovic mentioned the President Vucic’s promise of finding a solution to the problem and asked the Prime Minister to speed up the process.
Now, Orbovic wants to meet Mrs. Brnabic personally. He is not satisfied with the attitude of the Ministry of Labour which keeps on repeating that “amendments are still to be elaborated”. The Government’s tardiness is understandable if one knows that by non-paying full pensions to early retired pensioners it “earns” 20.4 billion dinars (170 million euros) per year. The position of the IMF – merciless controller of our finance - is not yet known, however, taking into consideration its earlier anti-worker behavior the pensioners can hardly be optimistic.

INTERESTING PROPOSAL OF CATUS
LOCAL COUNCIL OF JAGODINA

16. October 2017  •445•    Further

The Local Council of that city situated in Central Serbia suggested that CATUS should create its own trade union consumer basket whose structure and size would correspond to real living needs of the population.
It was necessary to make trade union basket because the official ones, both the minimum and the average, were inadequate and didn’t provide Serbian workers with decent and healthy living conditions, agreed the members of the Local Council at one of their sessions.
They welcomed the recently published 'CATUS book' where the authors analysed in detail the economic and social situation in Serbia and indicated the ways of improving legal status and living standard of employees.
It was suggested that a similar book, enriched with new ideas, should be published next year, too. One of the ideas could be the trade union consumer basket.
The Council gave support to CATUS activities related to the Pay Rise Campaign led by the European Trade Union Confederation.

CATUS: ALLEGED MISUSE OF SICK LEAVES AS
PART OF ANTI-WORKER CAMPAIGN

12. October 2017  •444•    Further

Latest Government’s announcement declaring its readiness to control workers on sick-leaves more efficiently is in line with the employers’ complaints against “the misuse” of that right and represents a warning to employees not to get sick, said Dusko Vukovic, CATUS Vice-President. With such claims, he insisted, the employers were trying to justify the putting of additional burden on employees’ back and earn extra-profit.
As a guest at TV Pink morning program he said that while the workers were generally interested in working much and earning as much as possible, the Government was interested in their health. He offered some data showing that the productive use of working time in Serbia was above the EU average, which meant that our workers were more loaded than their European colleagues.
Vukovic did not deny the possibility of sick-leave misuse but he suggested that “instead of making quick and erroneous conclusions which are later used to demonise workers, social partners should first make research on when, in what branches and why such cases occur”. He confirmed that CATUS is ready to contribute to the solution of that problem and welcomed the Prime Minister’s recommendation to put it on the agenda at one of the sessions of Social and Economic Council.
The Vice-President warned the employers not to make statements that might be interpreted as an attack on health service employees’ and their (alleged) engagement in corruption. Things like this could be understood as an attack on the whole profession, he said.
Reaction of CATUS was caused by the declaration of Mr. Atanackovic, President of Serbian Employers’ Union, saying that 12% to 15 % of workers were on sick-leaves, which was much above the EU average. “Either we are a nation of the sick, or we have many fake patients” he added and concluded: “We did not need to hear it from foreign employers as we have already known it for a long time”.

IT IS HIGH TIME TRADE UNIONS
CHANGED THEIR STRATEGY

9. October 2017  •443•    Further

Latest strikes in FIAT (Kragujevac) and GOSA (Smederevska Palanka) clearly showed that employers in Serbia don't have to respect our national labour legislation. That's why trade unions need to change their strategy, be more active and fully use the media and CSOs if they want to convince the public that workers in Serbia no longer want to be cheap labour force. This is what Duško Vuković, CATUS Vice-President, said at the debate organized by the CATUS, TUC NEZAVISNOST and Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
In his speech he stressed that instead of the improvement of citizens' living standard, which was promised to us at the beginning of privatization, we were faced with huge unemployment and disappointment among the workers. “It is high time trade unions changed their strategy and protected workers' vital interests in a more decisive manner, in unison and solidarity”, concluded Vuković.
He added that trade unions should do everything they could in order to prevent the amendments to the existing Labour Law, passed in 2014, because they would additionally worsen workers' position. President of TUC NEZAVISNOST Zoran Stojiljković appealed to all trade unions in Serbia, regardless of their different views on some issues, to unite in defense of what's common for all of them, i.e. decent work and decent life of employees.
The study of the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade, presented at the debate, showed that despite the recovery in the past couple of years, basic indicators of the situation at the labour market in Serbia in 2016 were worse than in Europe. According to the EU standards, employment rate of 55.2% was low, and the same went for the quality of employment in general. However, there were differences among the regions, so for example, the quality of employment in Belgrade was higher than in Šumadija and other parts of Serbia.

“OCTOBER 14”ACQUIRED BY CZECH “TATRA”

5. October 2017  •442•    Further

The Czechs were the only ones to compete for the acquisition of Serbian giant “October 14” (producing dozers, loaders, excavators etc.) and will finally manage to incorporate it into “Czechoslovak Group”, which gathers several big companies such as “TATRA Trucks”, “TATRA Military Vehicles”, “Avia”, “Daco” etc. Since the amount they offered (485, 031, 896 dinars i.e. 4 million euros) was only 10% of its estimated value, the consent of the Board of Creditors was also needed. After the consent was given, Mr. Jaroslav Strnad – the most important owner in arms industries of Czech Republic and Slovakia – acquired the “trophy” that once upon a time was pride of Serbian socialist economy but got in serious troubles and on January 2016 went to bankruptcy. Until now, there were four tenders, all unsuccessful.
It was already known that Czech corporation was interested in buying Krusevac factory in spite of the fact that “October 14” was highly indebted (13.6 billion dinars i. e. 113 million euros). The company owed to its workers only for the salaries more than 1billion dinars (8.3 million euros). Unfortunately, in the last twenty years the number of workers has decreased from 8,000 to only 160.
CATUS has welcomed the acquisition as it offers a long-term solution to the problem of one of the biggest Serbian company. It is supposed that after New Year many workers will go back to work which will ease serious social problems existing in Krusevac. To some of its employees the company owes more than 20 salaries but it’s not clear whether there will be enough money for that since many hypothecary creditors are waiting for their turn.

“SERBIAN GLASS FACTORY” WENT BANKRUPT

2. October 2017  •441•    Further

The decision was taken by the Economic Court in Kragujevac but since a sufficient number of workers with fixed-term contracts have been employed, the production will go on. Factory has 825 workers and its bank account has been blocked since November 2016. The Court’s President has justified the decision with a delay the company made regarding the fulfilling of its financial obligations (exceeding 45 days stipulated by the law).
The bankruptcy was avoided in June this year since one of the creditors, “Veksilum” based in Cacak, could not offer evidence for claim that Paracin factory owed them EUR 47 million. Unfortunately, that decision was cancelled by the Economic Court of Appeal and the glass giant had to go bankrupt.
Having heard the news, the dismissed workers organized themselves through social networks and gathered in front of the company’s gate demanding information on the dismissals-list and future of their jobs. There was a lot of police but no incidents have been registered. CATUS representative in the factory announced that 234 workers were dismissed and their entry permits were annulled during the weekend.
CATUS Autonomous Union of Chemistry Workers has appealed to President Vucic and Prime Minister Brnabic asking them to convince the new trustee in the bankruptcy to make another appeal to The Economic Court of Appeal. Ljubisa Nestorovic, President of the Union thinks that the bankruptcy is fake and demands the complete evidence on factory work and debts. However, he doubts the appeal will be made and the behavior of the new trustee – dismissing immediately 230 workers without any public criteria – does not leave place for much optimism.
The workers admit that a debt towards “Veksilum” exists but say they have reason to believe it’s much smaller. They have no confidence in documents used as proves, especially because “Veksilum” was established only in February and it seems mostly for speeding-up the bankruptcy. It’s interesting that in the past the owner of the factory was Cvetan Vasilev who is now being processed in Bulgaria for allegedly embezzling more than 100 million euros. Promoted as a respected investor and a savior, he only managed to raise the already existing debt by 70 times.

SMEDEREVO: TERMINATION OF STRIKE IN GOSA

25. Septeber 2017  •440•    Further

The five months long strike in wagon-factory GOSA in Smederevo was formally terminated after an agreement was signed by trade unions and the employer, in presence of representatives of The National Agency for Peaceful Solution of Labour Conflicts. After approving the agreement draft, workers went back to work, ready to restart production and fulfill their obligations towards the customers.
The agreement stipulates the payment of 30.000 dinars (EUR 250) wages to all employees and additional 30.000 dinars on theirs and the ex-workers’ bank accounts, as soon as two Z1 wagons are delivered. Payment dynamics will go on as money from sales comes to company’s bank account, especially after the completion of another 11 wagons and 47 rotting bases. In that way all unpaid salaries and allowances (including a part of debt towards suppliers) will be paid. The reprogramming of company’s debt towards the Government, which will occur rather soon, should lead to the unblocking of its account.
It ought to be said that four months after the explosion of the conflict both unions and employers agreed on demanding the mediation of the National Agency for Peaceful Solution of Labour Conflicts but it did not help solving the problem. Afterwards, the negotiations were continued without mediators, this time with success, leading to the agreement that finally ended one of the most serious labour conflicts in post-Milosevic era. According to the Association of Pensioner Unions of Serbia (APTUS) the above mentioned law is anti-constitutional and contrary to some generally accepted norms of international law. “Although there are rumours of pension increase I don’t think it will happen after New Year. We need not forget that money taken from pensioners adds 200 million dinars to Serbian budget” says Milorad Vujasinovic, Honorary President of APTUS and adds: ”Pensions will be increased as much as it suits the Government. We demanded a meeting with the Prime minister and the Minister of Labour in order to discuss the issue but we got no response. Still, we are decisive to go on - to Constitutional Court, Strasbourg…”. Vujasinovic is convinced that the elderly will start raising their voice at the approach of the Law’s third anniversary.
In November 2014 the pensions exceeding 25.000 dinars (EUR 200) were reduced by 22 % and those exceeding 40.000 (EUR 333) by 25 %. The economies were so big that the public expects the Government to present pensioners “a gift” as a gratitude for their sacrifices.

SERBIAN PENSIONERS EXPECT PENSION INCREASE

20. Septeber 2017  •439•    Further

Almost 750.000 pensioners whose pensions were decreased expect the increase of their pensions on November 1, 2014. According to their expectations the new amounts should come not later than January next year. The problem is that when the law was adopted, that date was mentioned only “orally” and is not to be found in the official text. Still, the general public is convinced that it’s high time to compensate pensioners for the sacrifice they made helping to fill the budget for three consecutive years. Citizens are supporting the idea that the pensions should follow the wage increase but much depends on the IMF who is to give the “green light”.
The Law on Temporary Provisions for the Administration of Pensions has not mentioned the exact amount of budgetary savings accumulated after all pensions exceeding 25.000 dinars (EUR 200) were decreased. However, in the report of the Pension and Disability Insurance Fund one can easily detect that contrary to what happened three years ago when 45% of the amount needed for pensions was paid from the budget, nowadays the budgetary contribution is only 33%.
According to the Association of Pensioner Unions of Serbia (APTUS) the above mentioned law is anti-constitutional and contrary to some generally accepted norms of international law. “Although there are rumours of pension increase I don’t think it will happen after New Year. We need not forget that money taken from pensioners adds 200 million dinars to Serbian budget” says Milorad Vujasinovic, Honorary President of APTUS and adds: ”Pensions will be increased as much as it suits the Government. We demanded a meeting with the Prime minister and the Minister of Labour in order to discuss the issue but we got no response. Still, we are decisive to go on - to Constitutional Court, Strasbourg…”. Vujasinovic is convinced that the elderly will start raising their voice at the approach of the Law’s third anniversary.
In November 2014 the pensions exceeding 25.000 dinars (EUR 200) were reduced by 22 % and those exceeding 40.000 (EUR 333) by 25 %. The economies were so big that the public expects the Government to present pensioners “a gift” as a gratitude for their sacrifices.

NEW MINIMUM WAGE THROUGH CONSENSUS

14. Septeber 2017  •438•    Further

Social-Economic Council made a decision to increase minimum wage for 2018 by 10%. Excluding taxes and contributions it will amount to 143RSD/hour.
Social partners agreed there was a need to increase minimum wage, and the amount was agreed thanks to respecting all parties' arguments, joint proposal of the CATUS and TUC NEZAVISNOST - 154RSD (1.28EUR) and the proposal of Serbian Employers' Association, i.e. the Government, - 140RSD (around 1.17EUR).
Finance Minister Dušan Vujović promised that he would insist on the fiscal neutrality of decision, i.e. increase of minimum wage would not overburden emoloyer's business costs. This will be achieved by increasing the untaxed part of salary.
After several years during which the decision on minimum wage was made by the Government of Serbia, Social-Economic Council decided to do this through harmonizing the arguments of all social partners, which represents a contribution to strengthening social dialogue in Serbia.

CATUS BOOK PRESENTED

8. Septeber 2017  •437•    Further

„Book of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia“, whose aim to contribute to the creation of better Serbia and offer solutions which are more favourable for the workers and pensioners, was presented today in the CATUS premises.
“All recommendations, requirements and solutions that the biggest trade union confederation in Serbia urged for in the previous period are published in our trade union book hoping that all trade union capacities would get actively involved in the discussion, take an overall account of the existing problems and offer efficient solutions”, said CATUS President Ljubisav Orbović.
According to him, one of the factors that greatly influenced the already difficult social-economic position of workers and all Serbian citizens is privatization, which is necessary, but it ruined everything, leaving the biggest number of factories destroyed and robbed. If the authorities listened to us, many of those factories would be saved through becoming workers' joint-stock companies, stressed Orbović.
„We supported investments and subsidies which Government provides so that more capital would enter the country and enable the creation of jobs, but they were provided only for foreign investors. However, this was not followed by salary increase. Salaries remained low and insufficient for decent living (from 370 to 390 euros, which puts us at the bottom of the European scale, while even 346,000 employees receive minimum wage which is not enough for the consumer's basket)”, he pointed out.
Orbović criticized Labour Law that the union fought fiercly against because it practically disabled collective bargaining in the real sector. This is proved by the fact that not a single collective agreement is signed in that sector despite so many violations of labour and trade union rights. „This is something that the authorities need to keep in mind when passing the new Labour Law. It has to be passed after public debate and social dialogue“, added Orbovic.
Professor Zoran Ivošević who attended the presentation complimented trade union's intention to use this publication in order to point out to different solutions and alternatives, as well as to include all trade union capacities in this fight. He thinks that the book should also include the demand for the amendment to Labour Law so that trade union members are not only full-time employees, but workers on temporary and occasional jobs, as well. At the moment in Serbia the number of permanently employed is almost equal to the number of those working with atypical employment contracts.
Labour Minister Đorđević, who also attended the event, announced that starting September 1 serious struggle against work on 'black market' would begin and would be implemented by introducing stricter penalty policy and 'mobile inspectors'. Employers violating workers' rights and acting in a slave-holding manner will be penalized much harsher, and 'social cards' will be made so that the right people could receive help.

TRADE UNION ORGANIZATION ESTABLISHED
IN “DELFI-NOVI SAD”

6. Septeber 2017  •436•    Further

On the shop floor of British company 'Delfi' which produces electrical installations for automobile industry, a trade union organization including already 300 members has recently started working. This is the result of great efforts invested by the CATUS, City Council of Novi Sad and our foreign trade union friends from IndustriAll and British TUC. President of the newly established trade union organization, Nevena Vukadinović, who works in production, says that many of 2,500 workers would join the union, but still don't know about its existence. Namely, due to working in three shifts trade union committee members are physically unable to reach every single worker.
According to what President says, social dialogue has already been established, Protocol on collective bargaining and Agreement on free hours for trade union work signed. After overcoming the initial inertia the managers became more sensitive to workers' issues and there are already some talks about a salary increase. Salaries in ‘Delfi’ are high above Serbian minimum wage (which amounts to around 200EUR per month), but they aren't sufficient to provide for quality life. It seems that the management came to realize this and starting from the principle that a good worker is only the one who is satisfied, it agreed to work on a collective agreement.
In all 'Delfi' factories in the world there are trade union organizations which are quite powerful. In Serbia the company has respected domestic Labour Law so far and working conditions are rather good. "We are entitled to two breaks during working hours, the working area is air-conditioned and there is a restaurant whose prices are adjusted to workers' income”, says President Vukadinovic and adds that the company also organizes medical check-ups (including visits with specialists) and encourages career promotion.

BATTLE TO INCREASE MINIMUM WAGEE

4. Septeber 2017  •435•    Further

Representative trade unions are asking for the increase of minimum wage from 130 RSD (1,08 EUR) to 154 RSD (1,28 EUR) per hour while the Union of Employers offers the increase of only 8% i.e. around 140RSD (1,16 EUR), announced CATUS General Secretary Zoran Mihajlović. He also said that the employers’ offer was supported by Serbian Government.
Mihajlovic added that employers' condition was the increase of 8% of the untaxed part of wage (which currently amounts to 11,600RSD, i.e. 97EUR). If the Government did not agree with this, they said, the Union would accept the minimum wage to be increased only by 3%.
Mihajlović pointed out it was good that all three social partners agreed about the necessity of the minimum wage increase while in the past employers were always saying there was no reason for that. He announced that talks on this subject would continue the following week and the agreement was expected to be reached till September 15.
In Serbia around 350,000 workers receive minimum wage of 22,880RSD (190EUR) per month and for the past five years the minimum wage per hour had been increased by only 15 RSD (12 euro cents).
Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić confirmed the increase of minimum wage, without being precise about the figure itself. She added that Government wanted to help workers but also the employers who were trying hard to create new jobs.

WORKERS OF GOSA WAGON FACTORY
ANNOUNCE RALLY IN BELGRADE

19. August 2017  •434•    Further

The place for Belgrade rally was chosen well - the space in front of the Government building, in the very centre of the city. This protest is just one more sign of discontent growing among Serbian metalworkers. Strike in FIAT was only the beginning, than labour conflicts exploded in “Gorenje”, “Namenska” and some other big companies. Compared with them, the struggle in “Gosa” has a rather long history. The strike began on March 27 because the employer had not been paying salaries for months. The crisis escalated when a worker who could no longer suffer pressures and stress committed suicide.
President of GOSA Strike Council, Milan Vujicic, announced the rally for next week. He criticized the Government for not doing much in order to solve the problem. He said that president Vucic promised to contact the ex-investor (Slovakian “ZOS Trnava”), while minister Knezevic discussed with unions on how to restructure the existing debt. “Prime Minister Brnabic said that a meeting with representatives of Slovakian company had been agreed, but we have no information thereof. It seems that everyone was lying to us”, he concluded.
Vujicic accused the Government of “tolerating company’s violation of Serbian legislation too long”. “How it’s possible that one does not pay taxes and contributions for five and half years, and salaries for three years, without any reaction from the authorities?”, he said and added that workers would eagerly go back to work if they were given guarantee that the debt towards them would be settled. However, the management has not reacted to that proposal, so far.
It ought to be said that ZOS Trnava exploited the factory for ten years and left it with huge debts. The analysts estimate that the sum it owes to workers and the Government amounts to six million euros.
In the meantime, there was a message from ZOS Trnava (ex-owner of GOSA) saying that company had sold its shares in May 2017 and was unable to contribute to finding a solution. Therefore, they concluded, the idea of a meeting with a Serbian delegation was useless. Problems got more complicated as Cyprus trade unions, trying to learn more about the now owner (who purportedly dwells on the island), spent three months without being able to discover their e-mail address and phone numbers. The search for mysterious interlocutor is going on, while the patience of GOSA workers is getting increasingly thin.

SERBIAN MINIMUM WAGE LOWEST IN EUROPE

16. August 2017  •433•    Further

For many years minimum wage in Serbia was very low, affecting negatively workers’ living standard and their social status. It pushed many of them into poverty and contributed to mass exodus of the youth, which created shortage of highly educated workers. However, neither the fact that many workers cannot satisfy their basic need, nor the obvious decrease of both aggregate demand and budget revenues convinced employers of the need to raise it. The best evidence for that are the results of the latest enquiry made by their own Union: it shows that the only thing that really matters them is the profit, while the salaries are considered to be just a necessary cost. If they were the only ones to decide about the increase of minimum wage, it would have remained unchanged for a decade. However, the fact that the Union represents only 10 % of the employers has often weakened their resistance.
Now, the time has come for negotiations on 2018 minimum wage. The employers keep on playing the old game and repeating that “there’s no margin for any increase”. According to them, the current amount of 130 dinars, i. e. 1.09 Euros per hour is sufficient to make workers live well. They don’t bother about objective parameters stipulated by the law in order to help fixing the right minimum amount and are ready to accept them only on condition the taxes and contributions to social funds are reduced and informal sector treated with more toughness.
CATUS is ready to back employers’ claims, but is firmly convinced that current state of economy makes the increase of minimum wage quite feasible.

UNIONS DON'T WANT NEW LABOUR LAW

8. August 2017  •432•    Further

Most of CATUS federations are dissatisfied with the first draft of Law on Employees in Public sector and are preparing themselves for a long and fierce battle. Even the continuation of talks with Ministries and the Government has come into question, while the Autonomous Union of Workers in Culture already left the negotiation table. “The most important is to come to a consensus among unions on a unified response to employers proposals - before the beginning of public debate” said Dusko Vukovic, CATUS Vice-President adding that “Government is firmly entrenched behind its version of the draft”. It is obvious that such attitude will make unionists’ job more difficult.
Trade unions are convinced that the rules governing the public sector should not differ greatly from those governing the private one. They don’t want a kind of a new labour law for public sector - and that seems to be the case: the draft fully regulates employment, transfers, salaries, bonuses, per diem rates, severance payments… Some of the issues, say the unionists, could be regulated quite well by collective agreements. Government’s intention to gradually eliminate collective negotiations and system of collective agreements seems too obvious.
Especially controversial is the article speaking about workers having to “prove their productivity at work” as it gives too much arbitrary power to the employer i.e. to Government and local authorities. In a system where ruling parties have always been influencing the composition and work of public sector staff, it could only create more iniquity and lead to a further deterioration of workers position.

STRIKE IN GOŠA CONTINUES

1. August 2017  •431•    Further

Several days ago, workers of Goša factory parked their forklift trucks in front of the entrance to the management building in Smederevska Palanka in order to stop directors from getting into it. After the state had promised to pay the debt of 512 million dinars for pension insurance, workers didn't manage to reach an agreement with the Director, Milutin Šćepanović, about the payment of remaining salaries.
'At workers' meeting we decided to continue the strike. We will park forklift trucks in front of the management building because we don't know what else to do. Main person to be blamed is the Director, Milutin Šćepanović, who promised that they would do whatever it took if the state decided to help. However, now when the state said it would help, he is refusing to keep his promise, as if he were doing it on purpose', said the President of Goša Strike Committee, Milan Vujičić. He also says that Šćepanović talked to some workers after the meeting with Hesteel representatives who came to negotiate about the purchase of wagons but he wasn't invited to the meeting.
- 'I don't know whether they made an agreement but the Director said that there was no money and if they sold wagons, the money would be used to settle some debts to the creditors – and if some of the money remained, the workers would be paid' - Vujičić explains. This is the fifth month of strike for the workers of Goša. First, they were striking in the factory. Then, they blocked railway crossing in the town and some of them even went on a hunger strike.
At the beginning of April, former owner of ŽOS Trnava sold the company over night to the Cypriot company Lisnart limited that nobody knows anything about. Slovenians owe 1.6 million euros to the workers and 4 million euros to the state for the payment of contributions. The reason for the strike was the suicide of the worker – Dragan Mladenović.
At the moment workers don't trust anyone, and the only logical explanation is that new owners and former ones are actually the same people who don't find any interest in rescuing Goša, even though Šćepanović has been claiming the opposite since he was appointed Director.

25 EURO INCREASE FOR FIAT WORKERS

26. July 2017  •430•    Further

The agreement between FIAT management and workers was signed in the Government of Serbia, which marks the official end of strike involving 95% of 2,500 workers in Kragujevac factory. Workers asked for a gross increase of the basic salary amount from 38,000RSD (317euros) to 50,000RSD (417 euros), but received 9.54% increase. This is a gross increase of around 4,000RSD (33 euros) net. They got the third of what they asked for. According to the Government, the agreement is valid for another three years and provides workers with doubled compensation for night travel expenses; the employer is obliged to adjust salary increase to the inflation rate – first in August by 2.2%, then once more in 2018 by 4.5% while the workers are obliged not to go on strike if the agreement is respected.
- ‘‘You know, you rarely get as much as you ask for in a strike. What I know is that workers will get the overall increase of 9.54%, that’s what they will bring home. First part of that increase will be realized in August and the second one after the New Year’, says CATUS President, Orbovic. He also criticizes FIAT for not accepting negotiations for such a long time, but claims that this is a step forward.
- ‘It’s tragic that from the very beginning FIAT had no understanding for the workers in Serbia, they avoided negotiations, even though the workers here are paid the lowest – stresses Orbovic and adds that a Serbian worker is paid 350 euros on average while in Turkey the salary is 650 euros and in Poland 950 euros.
According to Orbovic, this increase is a success, but he isn’t sure whether it is sufficient because the salaries will still be low. Signing the agreement is also a success. As far as the strike is concerned, Orbovic explains that if a signed collective agreement isn’t respected, it’s logical for the workers to go on strike. If there is a strike, it is employer’s obligation to start negotiations with workers within five days.
He also comments that this isn’t a collective agreement. FIAT management and trade unions will talk about a new collective agreement by the time the existing one will have expired.
The agreement doesn’t say this explicitly, but there is a logical conclusion that FIAT plans to stay in Serbia till the middle of 2020 because they have just signed the agreement with workers valid for the next three years. For Orbovic this is good news, too.
The agreement stipulates the payment of bonuses and travel expenses, but also the formation of a Commission for technical measurements which is to start working in September. Its task is going to be to evaluate production standards and submit monthly reports to the headquarters in Turin, but also to the Government of Serbia – says Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic. Moreover, dialogue continues every month at least till the end of January 2018 and Ms. Brnabic announces the talks on possible introduction of efficiency bonuses, similar to those already in place in Italy and Poland.

FIAT MANAGEMENT OFFERS 9.54% PAY RISE

24. July 2017  •429•    Further

FIAT management took into account workers’ demands and offered 9.54% pay rise, as reported by the Radio Television of Serbia.
The offer submitted to workers’ representatives states that salaries will be raised by 9.54%, which means that gross basic amount will be increased from 38,500RSD (around 320 euros) to 42,000RSD (350 euros). The increase will be realized two times – 3.15% now in August, and 6.39% at the beginning of next year – in February 2018. The efficiency bonus will also be paid, as well as additional transport expenses. Due to the workers’ demand related to the improvement of working conditions in the factory in Kragujevac, a special commission will be sent there to determine the posts where workers perform multiple operations and fix this problem. The President of Autonomous Trade Union, Zoran Markovic said that TU Assembly authorized workers’ representatives to continue negotiations with FIAT management.

FIRST ROUND OF NEGOTIATIONS - FINISHED

20. July 2017  •428•    Further

Yesterday's meeting including Serbian Government representatives, management of FIAT Chrysler Automobiles Serbia and employees in Kragujevac factory is finished, and today its continuation is expected.
Serbian Government was represented by the Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, Minister of Economy, Goran Knežević and Labour Minister, Zoran Đorđević. On the behalf of FIAT company, the meeting was attended by the General Director, Silvia Vernetti while employees were represented by the Strike Committee President, Zoran Marković.
Marković assessed negotiations as constructive even though he could not go into details as this is an ongoing process.
“Due to negotiations we are not able to give any statements. I told my colleagues not to give statements since negotiations with the company will continue tomorrow. We started negotiating in a constructive way in order to find a solution”, Marković told journalists after the meeting in the Government. He also added that all the issues would be resolved in the course of negotiations.

NO MORE STRIKE IN FIAT

19. July 2017  •427•    Further

Last night Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić made an agreement with FIAT workers in Kragujevac about the interruption of strike and start of negotiations.
At the meeting held in the City Hall of Kragujevac, where also CATUS President Ljubisav Orbovic took part, it was agreed that negotiations with the employer would start that day at noon.
At the press conference Ana Brnabić thanked the workers for a successful meeting and announced that she would be present at negotiations because it was extremely important for her to keep the promise she gave the workers and trade unions.
„I can’t guarantee what we would get because the Government is a minor partner”, Prime Minister pointed out.
However, what she can guarantee is that she would stand by the workers all the time and negotiate together with them, supported by the Government.
Brnabić mentioned that together with her team and Minister of Economy, Goran Knezevic she would insist on satisfying as many trade union’s demands as possible.
According to what she says, many problems have to do with production process and can be solved with the middle management. After having been acquainted with problems in FIAT to a greater extent, she said that the Government should be regularly informed about what was happening in FIAT.
President of FIAT Strike Committee Zoran Marković said that the protest was called off and invited FIAT workers to go to work on July 19. He added that after the meeting with Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic trade union and Strike Committee decided to stop the strike and continue the talks with company representatives and Government of Serbia.
„I would like to inform my dear colleagues that this is not a defeat because many would present it as such. The end is not a departure of FIAT, but the improvement of our working conditions, salaries, our four demands”, declared Marković.
Marković resolutely expects fast and precise negotiations.

STRIKE IN FIAT STILL GOES ON

18. July 2017  •426•    Further

Yesterday at the press conference, Zoran Markovic, President of CATUS company trade union and President of Strike Committee announced that the strike would continue. At the same time he invited entire work force of Serbia to come to Kragujevac on Wednesday at 11 a.m. and participate in a big protest in front of the Town Hall. According to Markovic, after yesterday's poll workers in both shifts voted for the continuation of strike. In the first shift the decision was voted by 97% of workers and in the second by 98%.
Practically, this means that around 2,000 workers, out of the total of 2,500 employees, decided not to stop the protest until local FIAT management has declared their opinion on workers' demands. FIAT workers are asking for the increase of gross salary from the current 38,500RSD (around 320EUR) to 50,000RSD (416EUR), reorganization of work, payment of efficiency bonuses and refund for travel expenses incurred by coming to work outside standard working hours.

KRAGUJEVAC, SERBIA:
BIGGEST STRIKE IN FIAT RECENT HISTORY

12. July 2017  •425•    Further

FIAT Serbia has definitely got into a turmoil as one of the biggest strikes in company’s recent history has been going on for more than two weeks. For sixteen days in a row 2500 workers in the biggest car factory in Serbia have been resisting employer’s indifference and Government’s attempts to bring them back to work. The industrial action already caused serious losses to all sides: production has been reduced by almost 5000 cars, salary the strikers will get after the strike will be far from minimum allowing them and their families to survive, image of Serbia, so dear to the Government ready to attract foreign investments by proclaiming the country “a place with cheapest and most disciplined work force”, has lost part of its credibility... Still, except for workers and their unions, no one has made any visible effort to help find the solution to the conflict. It seems that FIAT management is sticking to its principle of not negotiating while strike is still ongoing, while the Government has no strength to convince it not to do it.
The crisis has its origin in the abolition of third shift, which occurred last year. More than 800 workers were dismissed and their job distributed among those who were spared. The strain has grown considerably, often causing workers to run from one work place to another in order to accomplish the necessary operations. Forklifts that according to FIAT rules may never exceed the speed of 5 km/hour are already running at 14 km/hour! Other problems were transport of those working in evening shift (not being able to catch last night-buses) and payment of efficiency bonuses. And of course, very low salaries (a bit more than 300 euros) which are below the national average in metal sector (workers asked only for 50 to 60 euros increase). Here, one must take into consideration the absurdity of the fact that all year round workers’ salaries are paid from Serbian budget, which allows FIAT to get an extra profit! Guilt for that lies with one of the previous Governments, which - lead primarily by political reasons – was too ready to sign a contract depriving Serbia of a part of its richness and limiting its sovereignty.
And this is exactly the case, as by its firm refusal of collective negotiations company management has been seriously breaching not only the ILO Convention 144 on Tripartite Consultations, but Serbian legislation too (our Labour Law sees the dialogue during strike time not as a matter of free choice, but as an obligation of both social partners). Also, FIAT has twice refused to respect decisions of Labour Inspection obliging it to start negotiating – doing it for the third time could lead, at least in theory, to company’s closure). It seems that Government is making efforts to push towards the convergence of two sides: there is an idea of publishing a decree, which would allow the “freezing” of the strike for one day (Friday). Workers would come to work just that day, allowing the management to respect its principle of not negotiating during strikes, which could help find a viable solution. Then, on Sunday evening, workers’ general assembly would vote for cessation or continuation of the strike.
The atmosphere among the strikers is “hot” and there are only few among them ready to accept the suspension of the action. One fears that it could get radicalised as protest marches from factory to Town Hall are planned and there are hints that the strike might spread to other companies in metal sector. It seems that Serbia is awaking from the neoliberal dream and the ideas of natural harmony between social partners. These are the Balkans and here the situation is different from the one in Western Europe. Fighting for democracy in the 90’s we got capitalism and are now forced to face one of its most barbarious and inhumane forms. The only way to change it is to be firm and united. Strong support from all FIAT factories in Europe and the world has given Serbian workers additional motivation to go on with their action and win.

HUNGER STRIKE IN GOŠA WAGON FACTORY

6. July 2017  •424•    Further

Radicalising their protest the workers of Goša factory in Smederevska Palanka blocked for three hours the railway crossing on Belgrade-Niš highway, stopped traffic on regional road Smederevska Palanka-Topola and announced hunger strike.
Yesterday was the 100th day of the strike caused by non-payment of delayed salaries. As far as the hunger strike is concerned, it will start next week.
Goša workers haven’t been paid since 2014 and they made the agreement with the employer to be paid in 16 monthly installments.
“The employer owes to each of us from 500,000 to 600,000 dinars (4000 – 5000 euros) and to those who submitted a law-suit even million to a million and a half dinars (8200 to 12300 euros) - because of the calculation of three-year interest’ – clarified Milan Vujičić, head of Strike Committee.
He also added that a month ago they wrote several times to Prime-Minister Aleksandar Vučić, Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin, Minister of Justice Goran Knežević and Vice-President of the Government Ivica Dačić, but haven’t received any reply so far.

GENERAL STRIKE IN FIAT SERBIA

1. July 2017  •423•    Further

President of CATUS company trade union in FIAT Serbia in Kragujevac, Zoran Markovic, sent a letter to Human Resources manager Roberto Anselmo informing him about the beginning of the general strike, that should last until an agreement with the management has been signed, and main workers’ claims fulfilled. The unionists warned the employers that by previously refusing any further talks with unions they have not only ignored the decision of Labour Inspection ordering social partners to go on with negotiations, but have openly breached the Labour Law, too. They were invited twice (on June 23 and 27) to restart talks, but they gave no positive answer.
The strike started at 6 a.m. following two minor (one hour) ones on Friday and Monday. Workers demand their salaries be increased from 38.000 (310 euros) to 45.000 (370 euros) dinars. The negotiations organised by the Ministry of Economy gave no result, contrary to optimism of workers’ representatives expressed before the meeting. The company PR refused to give any comment on the current situation.
Workers also claim better working conditions, new organisation of production process, decrease of strain put on individual workers, payment of efficiency bonuses and compensation of transport costs for those with non-standard working hours. “ Workers must often work in tropical heat – sometimes going up to 40 degrees – and besides, do the job of absent colleagues”, explains Jugoslav Ristic, President of Kragujevac Trade Union Council, reminding that discontent is not new and has its origin in the last year mass dismissal of few hundred workers following the elimination of one of the shifts.

DUAL EDUCATION AS NEW FORM OF
FORCED CHILD LABOUR

22. June 2017  •422•    Further

New Law on Dual Education stipulates that students in technical colleges shall spend from one to three days (depending on the class they go to) practicing their future profession. However, there is a difference between our and German law, as our kids will sign no contract with the company they work for. Knowing the mentality of our employers and having the Government which always favours their interests, our trade unions are rather skeptical about some aspects of the new document and ask from its authors further clarifications.
It is a fact that through dual education companies will get access to extremely cheap labour. The law will fix the minimum wage for students at the 50% of the national minimum (which is less than 100 euros a month) and limit their weekly working hours to 35 (which is the maximum length of child working week fixed by the international standards). Their entrance to labour market will reduce the number of jobs, increase the competition among the unemployed and lead to decrease of salaries, warn some unionists. As if all this was not enough, the Government is planning to pass a series of by-laws giving tax relief and financial incentives to companies willing to employ college students.
Besides, there will be no guarantees concerning further work in the company where one served apprenticeship. It is highly probable that employers will never keep the kids on steady basis. The constant circulation of new young workers will, thus, neutralise the trade unions’ efforts to affiliate the apprentices. In addition, the law does not prescribe to unions any role in monitoring the process. That role (regardless of the conflict of interests) will be played by the Chamber of Commerce, composed only by the employers.
The new system should balance the need for specific work force and our school-system “production”. However, if we look at the current labour demand, the most needed are the non-qualified workers. So if we leave the education system only to market forces, it will lead to its full erosion. According to Professor of labour legislation, Reljanovic, “since foreigners who chose Serbia for their investments usually invest in most simple jobs, it is to expect that our schools will mostly produce workers with low qualifications”.

TORINO PROCESS DRIVING SKILLS AND
SOCIAL DIALOGUE IN SERBIA

20. June 2017  •421•    Further

In Serbia, preparatory work for a national qualifications framework (NQF) is approaching its conclusion: a new NQF law should be ready for parliamentary approval by September.
Torino Process Coordinator Rade Erceg, a vocational teacher at an engineering school near Belgrade, is excited.
“I am proud that we are so close to the NQF and the development of a new dual (education) system that is closer to the needs of the economy.”
“Then of course the existence and operation of a VET Council based on genuine social dialogue”, says Mr Erceg, who is a member of the council representing the country’s largest trade union confederation.
These are some of the developments brought forward through Torino Process monitoring and evaluation, together with work on the so-called Riga Conclusions – priority areas agreed to by ministers of vocational education in Europe and EU candidate countries.
The Torino Process has also been helping to forge cooperation between the VET sector, the Ministries of Education, Science and Technological Development and National Education and other partners that include employer associations and the unions.
Priorities are to ensure the NQF is successfully delivered, that sectoral councils keep on top of labour market demands, and that new curricula are developed with more practical training based in a system of dual education.
According to Rade Erceg, one of the biggest economic and training challenges is the informal economy. It is estimated that as many as a third of people employed in agriculture, tourism, catering and construction are off the books.
Low wages, a lack of labour inspectors and porous borders that allow for extensive smuggling of cigarettes, alcohol and high value textiles, are all factors that make tacking the issue difficult.
“The formal economy and developing skills in the workforce is where upward pressure can be put on wages and conditions.”
On a brighter note, he says, a recent good practice is the increased participation of employers in providing vocational training.
For example, 50+ new dual education training schemes brought forward through an initiative by the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
Good practice examples like this will be showcased at the upcoming Torino Process international conference, June 7-8, in Turin.

CELEBRATION IN SERBIAN POST
ONLY FOR THE RICH

12. June 2017  •420•    Further

Never in recent history has the Post Day celebration been accompanied by lower salaries and worse working conditions than this year. Until 2012, postal workers were paid about 10 % more than other Serbian workers, while today they get 10 % less. Behaviour of the management is highly unjust as the profit growth, giving space to substantial increase of the salaries, was followed by their new 5 % decrease. It seems that workers’ efforts contributing to the company’s ever-growing enrichment have only resulted in their own further impoverishment.
However, the low salaries are not the only employees’ problem – they are also suffering from the violation of some of their fundamental rights, one of them being the right to paid vacation. Provisions of Labour Law and collective agreement were breached and vacations substituted by “paid days-off”. Their total number is now exceeding 2500. It goes without saying that many days-off were cancelled or simply “forgotten”. Also, many workers who worked for years with fixed-time contracts are being dismissed, the full-time contracts being signed by the complete strangers.
All this has pushed some of the best company experts to leave. The number of workers is also declining, while the only group, which is steadily growing, is the bureaucracy. In such circumstances, very few can celebrate the Post Day with joy, maybe only those who do not know how difficult it is to feed one’s family with only 36.000 dinars (less than 300 euros) per month.

EMPLOYEES IN CULTURE EMBITTERED
BY NEW LAW ON SALARIES

7. June 2017  •419•    Further

Union of Employees in Culture decided to quit negotiations, thoroughly disappointed by the Government’s proposal of Law on Salaries in Public Sector. It is true that the proposal has not been adopted yet, that it is still being analysed and amended, but it has already caused a great discontent among the workers in the sector – mostly because some of its parts contradict Serbian Labour Law. Unions point out that instead of playing the role of “workers’ Constitution”, the Labour Law is being de facto violated by the proposed introduction of job salary classification list for public sector.
Dragana Djordjevic, President of the Union of Employees in Culture explained that one of the main reasons urging unionists to “freeze” the social dialogue was the legislator’s intention to reduce the role of trade unions to nothing. The issue of “work efficiency” was not regulated well either, permitting arbitrariness in its monitoring and evaluation. “The law does not regulate labour relations properly and in addition it cannot be applied. There is no such law in the world”, said the President
Djordjevic defined “unacceptable” the paragraph enabling employer to transfer workers to a new office up to 50 km from their previous work place.
Analyzing the standard of living of workers in culture, she complained against the constant reduction of salaries in some of Serbian municipalities, which is highly unfair if one takes into consideration that they are already very low (220 EUR per month).

CATUS QUIT NEGOTIATIONS
BECAUSE OF PENALTY POINTS ISSUE

5. June 2017  •418•    Further

Protesting against the fact that the abolishment of penalty points for people going into pension before 65 (after fully completing their years of service) was not on the agenda of the working group for the new Law on Pension and Disability Insurance, the CATUS representative has abruptly left the last group’s session. His disappointment and anger have their cause in the behaviour of the Government which distanced itself from the promises generously given to pensioners before the elections.
“Confronted with such situation, our organisation which was always faithful to the idea of social dialogue as a necessary instrument of fostering social justice, warns that relations among social partners based on fraud and manipulation are unacceptable and harmful”, says CATUS in a communiqué issued after its representative left the negotiation table. According to the legislation currently in force, the reduction of pension for people retiring before the age of 65 may reach even 20.4 %.
Firm agreement already achieved by social partners on the amendments abolishing the “penalty points” was brutally breached by the Government, which stubbornly treads the path of neoliberal economic policy and shows no sign of willingness to consider another model of growth.

PRESIDENT VUCIC SUGGESTS
THE INCREASE OF MINIMUM WAGE

2. June 2017  •417•    Further

While being at the post of Prime Minister Mr. Vucic did not show much sympathy for minimum wage increases, the Government usually accepting the employers’ arguments. Therefore, his last idea to increase it up to 140 dinars (1.14EUR) per hour has caused a considerable astonishment among workers and public in general.
“With full support of unions we alrady increased the minimum wage from 121 to 130 dinars (1EUR to 1.06EUR). Now, I have the idea to raise it up to 140 dinars, until the end of this year. However, it’s up to the Government to decide”, he said, forgetting that the unions did not “support” but demanded the increase.
Further on, Vucic explained that if his idea was realised the wages of those having the lowest standard of living would be increased by 8 %. “At the moment, we have enough means to do it in public sector but it is to be seen whether private companies are able to follow. I think they are”, he concluded.
Replying to opposition who questioned him on when the wages in public sector (decreased two years ago) would be brought to the previous level, Vucic said his opponents forgot that it had already been done, the exception being the employees in ministries. He also announced that until the end of 2017 all salaries in public sector would be increased by 9 to 11%.

AGENCY WORK:
HOW TO PREVENT A NEW FORM OF SLAVERY

27. May 2017  •416•    Further

Although the first employment agencies were established in Serbia only a few years ago, that kind of work has always been popular among our employers. The exact number of agency workers is hard to verify, however it is estimated they are not less than 50,000 (the unions speaking about 100.000, spread over all sectors of economy).
Since the agency work was only tolerated without being legally regulated, the Government eventually announced the adoption of a new law that would put an end to the worst practices of exploitation. For the moment, it is hard to predict when it might happen but according to the CATUS estimates, the law could come into force already this autumn, most probably in October. After a short public debate it should pass through Social and Economic Council and then be sent by the Government into parliamentary procedure. The unionists are mostly irritated by the fact that the joint working group worked on the draft for a year and a half and then got a completely new version in last December.
For the CATUS, the new law is a necessity since without it the agency workers would remain second-class employees. Apart from that, Serbia is obliged to harmonise its legislation with the EU Directive on agency work issued in 2008. Unionists are generally against that kind of work but if it has already been imposed, its good to see it regulated by the law. Especially because in Serbia there are more than hundred employment agencies now. The employees engaged by them get 30% less than full-time workers but it’s understandable in a situation where they are under strong pressure coming from the unemployed over-flooding the labour market. That is why they are de facto forced to work without legal protection, social guarantees - and most often without unions.
The CATUS insists that in companies the number of those sent by the agencies should not exceed the 10% of the total work force. In addition, there should be a ban on their engagement in main production activities, they should all have regular work contracts, enjoy all rights and of course have possibility of joining trade unions.

NO FUTURE WITHOUT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY

26. May 2017  •415•    Further

On May 25 a round table entitled "Towards More Efficient Employment Policy" was held within Social Dialogue Forum and organized by the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia and TUC NEZAVISNOST, with the support of Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
Participants pointed out to the importance of connecting the economic reform program with the employment and social policy reform in Serbia. These reforms are also related to the European integration process and that’s why trade union participation in the negotiations about SAA Chapter 19 is necessary. Serbia surely needs to adjust its education system to the labour market needs, but contrary to the attitude of employers who are expecting a fully prepared worker for a certain job, trade unions think that it’s necessary to have general education which will be improved during practice. Therefore, the development of dual education needs to be coordinated with social partners.
At the round table, CATUS Council Vice-President, Duško Vuković said that the Confederation was very much interested in effective employment, but it was necessary for the trade union to be genuinely involved in the making of the policy so that the employment would be of high quality and provide worker with a decent life. He also criticized the fact that not a single trade union representative was invited to participate in the work group drafting the laws on public employees. Less and less resources from the budget were set aside for active employment measures and at the moment they amounted to about 3 billion euros, Vuković said. „Without economic development strategy, we would be in the position of low-paid manual workers “, pointed out Vuković.
CATUS Council Secretary, Zoran Mihajlović stressed that not only statistics ‘showing constant drop in employment’ were important, but it was necessary to determine the trends while having in mind that even those working for an hour a week were considered to be employed, and at the same time the number of workers on precarious jobs who didn’t even have an employment contract was going up. It was necessary to synchronize measures – amendments to tax policy, education system, social policy reform and support for vulnerable groups, as well as the reform of job classification, he concluded.

ADOPTION OF NEW LAWS DEVALUES LABOUR LAW

18. May 2017  •414•    Further

Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions is deeply dissatisfied with the amendments to the Labour Law. In the letter sent to the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, CATUS President Ljubisav Orbović warns about the ''deconstruction'' of labour legislation, which started by the adoption of the law regulating salaries in the public sector and was intensified by the preparation of the law on employees in public services whose last version was made on May 11, 2017.
These laws (one adopted and the other one in preparation) define a special system of labour relations for employees in public sector. Also, they envisage the enforcement of other ''more detailed'' laws regulating salaries and labour relations in particular public services.
„We are aware of the specific qualities of certain professions, but we think that there aren't grounded reasons for such a comprehensive and thorough deconstruction of labour legislation. At the same time we point out to the fact that employees' position is worsened in this way, which significantly disrupts the balance between the interests of labour and capital that was previously achieved through the work of Social-Economic Council and joint activities in work groups.
We hope that you will take our position into consideration and in the future we will find common solution so that specific qualities of particular professions could be duly respected, but without deconstruction of labour legislation“, the letter says.

WORK GROUP FOR AMENDING LABOUR LAW

8. May 2017  •413•    Further

Good news for Serbian pensioners: Ministry of Labour announced the creation of a work group responsible for preparing amendments to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance. The CATUS decided to be represented therein by its Secretary General, Zoran Mihajlovic.
Decision to amend the law was taken on the initiative of the CATUS, as related to the modification of the article 70a. This happened at the session of the Social and Economic Council held on April 18. In continuation the Government was officially requested to annul the obligatory reduction of pensions by 0.34% per month for those who stop working before 65 years of age and have full years of service.
CATUS expects the work group to prepare the amendments quickly and thus do justice to pensioners who have been punished for years by their low economic and social status.

CATUS ACTIVE SUPPORT FOR
ETUC PAY-RISE CAMPAIGN

5. May 2017  •412•    Further

On behalf of CATUS, President of Vojvodina Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions Goran Milic has supported the ETUC campaign for pay rise announcing our own claim for higher salaries and pensions. At the same time, he warned that in Serbia there was another, even higher priority – make it possible for workers to get their wages. It may seem incredible but 50,000 Serbian workers are paid only periodically, while 650,000 get the money they earned with delay, sometimes months long.
It is years ago, said Milic, that our workers deserved a solid pay-rise. It is understandable if you take into consideration that many of them still work for 170 EUR per month, while one has to spend one and a half minimum wage to fill the consumer’s basket! Situation with pensions is even worse and many of pensioners live at the brink of poverty contributing to the terrifying statistics, which shows that the poor make one quarter of the population.
According to CATUV President, we might get out of this specific cul-de-sac if we were not lacking an element of supreme importance: the social dialogue. While at the national level it is more fictitious than real, in the regions it almost ceased to exist. The facts are deplorable: in 2003, 33 out of 45 municipalities in Vojvodina had their regional social and economic councils; in 2016 only three of them were still working. Milic hopes that pressure of the EU institutions related to the opening of Chapter 19 of the Aquis could help the realisation of trade union expectations. He pointed out that European Commission denounced Serbia for legging behind other countries in what concerns the number of workers covered by collective agreements.
Elements of self-criticism were also present in Milic’s words. The unions, he said, were accustomed to act in the old socialist society where workers were protected by the state itself and the unionists were not prepared to get confronted with new capitalist reality. Therefore, they could not always adequately defend the interests of labour and that lead to the loss of confidence and decrease of affiliation rate, he concluded.

MAY 1: SERBIAN WORKERS WANT A BETTER LIFE!

3. May 2017  •411•    Further

This was one of the messages sent to the public from the rally jointly organised on May 1 by CATUS and TUC Nezavisnost in front of CATUS premises, at Pasic square, in the very centre of Belgrade. More than 5,000 members of these two organisations, pensioners, members of other trade unions and NGOs, as well as many citizens gathered at the city’s central square to put out the claims paradoxically very similar to those articulated by American workers in Chicago 1886, more than a hundred years ago.
Among the cries of workers requiring pay rise and decent jobs, two leaders Orbovic and Stojiljkovic, insisted on the fact that Serbia, where tens of thousands of working poor earned not more than a minimum wage, i.e. less than 200 euros, had enough of self-sacrifice and poverty. They urged the Government to raise wages not only for ethical reasons but also in order to increase consumption and production, eliminate corruption and decrease social tension. Still, all this would be impossible without a higher minimum wage, better law on retirement and signing of collective agreements.
Harsh words were uttered at the expense of the International Monetary Fund labelled “the worst enemy of Serbian workers, responsible for wage and pension cuts, as well as for longer years of service”. The angry outcries were soon substituted by cheerful shouts as the message of support from “Solidarity’s” President, Slovenian Dusan Semolic, was read.
The rally was followed by traditional walk through the centre of the city, up to Government premises, where two unions’ General Secretaries, Mihajlovic and Andric, left a list of workers’ claims and assured that workers would closely watch over their realisation.

PENSIONERS' TRADE UNION
AGAINST PENALTY POINTS

21. April 2017  •410•    Further

In its statement to the press the Association of Pensioners' Trade Unions of Serbia strongly opposes penalty points upon the retirement of citizens who are not 65 (men) or 61.5 years old (women), but have a full length of service (40 years for both men and women). Such practice caused great dissatisfaction among pensioners and citizens who see this as a new attack on the world of labour.
This Association thinks it is necessary to have a new Law on Pension and Disability Insurance which would ''create conditions for more humane treatment of citizens who have worked for 40 years and paid money into the Pension Fund, show more respect for economic logic and meet the demands of fairness, according to which everyone has the right to a legally earned pension''.
"Having in mind that the Government has a decisive role in managing Pension and Disability Insurance Fund (even though it is not its legal role), we consider it the most responsible for everything that happens there, including decisions primarily dealing with numbers, not people'', concludes the Association of Pensioners' Trade Unions.

JAIL FOR UNSCRUPULOUS EMPLOYERS?

20. April 2017  •409•    Further

If there were a different legislation in Serbia, at least thirty per cent of our employers would end up in prison for not paying contributions to social insurance funds. This is what some of the eminent experts say, although the official statistic data are still lacking. A bad example of a country where passionate efforts to join the EU are accompanied by early capitalism practices.
Workers usually become aware of the problem only when they start collecting documents necessary for retirement. One of them is Dragoljub Micic (65), a citizen of Belgrade. “I worked in a public enterprise” he says, “and it has never come to my mind that my contributions were not paid. Collecting documents for retirement I found out that the management missed to cover my last three years of service. Since then my life has been transformed into going from one counter to another, but I still don’t see a solution to my problem”.
Famous Serbian professor of economy Stojan Stamenkovic got the idea of the employers being sent to jail for such behaviour, exactly after witnessing many similar cases. “After the extinction of state agency monitoring all business activities, overall payments were transfered to banks “he says trying to explain how the community lost its control over finances and economy in general. Regretting such outcome, he is still astonished by a complete lack of public insight into the payments to social insurance funds and enraged by the fact that so far no employer playing with workers’ health and pensions has been sent to jail.
However, although the academic and trade union analyses show that workers’ discontent has been rapidly increasing, the banks were quick to declare they bore no responsability for the illegal practice. They argue the banks are the last place one should expect the control of contribution payments.

ENTERTAINERS’ UNION READY TO SIGN
NEW COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT

19. April 2017  •408•    Further

Decision to approve the signing of collective agreement for entertainers was taken at the last session of Social and Economic Council. For many years this CATUS affiliate has been asking for it, but resistance of employers was too strong and led to breakdown of the negotiation process. The Government itself also created problems as the Ministry of Culture declared it could not consider the entertainers’ union its counter-part in negotiations.
The event is of great importance as the Union of Employers resists to sign agreements in other branches or is ready to withdraw its consent after signing them, which is what exactly happened with the agreements in construction, chemistry and agriculture. So, the only branch having collective agreement (outside public sector, where this institution is still respected) is the road maintenance.
In his statement to the press, the CATUS Vice-President Vukovic stressed the importance of the new agreement saying that “from now on there would be rules in the branch and it would be clear who could and who could not play music and sing in Serbian restaurants”. He also added “the agreement would help eliminating unfair competition and social dumping”.
Dragisa Golubovic, President of the entertainers’ union, hopes that the employers who are not members of the Union of Employers of Serbia, as well as the entertainers who don’t belong to his federation, will also respect the agreement.

IS THERE A FUTURE FOR SMEDEREVO WAGON FACTORY?

11. April 2017  •407•    Further

Commenting on the current situation in Smederevo wagon-factory “GOSA”, president of the CATUS Orbovic said that unions had to raise their voice earlier and not wait for problems to be solved “from above”. “If workers don’t get their salaries two or three months and nothing is done, then it becomes harder to find the way out”, he added. According to him, the only solution in such situations is a strike. “The problem is that workers kept on hoping that company would get out of trouble, as from time to time they were getting some money (but only an assistance, not a salary)”, he explained and reproached the employers for hiding that they did not pay contributions to social funds.
Orbovic also spoke about the public, anxious because of not knowing who the new owner of the company was. He said the only positive signal was that he was soon coming to Serbia. Serbian media have already been writing about a Cypriot having a company registered in Nicosia. Unions raised the question wheather the new owner was really new and what was his idea about the company’s future.
CATUS President is of the opinion that it would be the best if “GOSA” is taken over by the Government until the situation turns to normality. At the end of his interview to the national broadcast agency, RTS he reminded the public of CATUS amendment to the Labour Law containing the penalisation of salary payment delays which was rejected by the ruling majority.
The interview was given a week after the factory was visited by the Prime Minister. Then, Mr. Vucic promised that the Government would give one-time, 60,000 dinars assistance to workers and compensate the contributions which previous owner “forgot” to pay.

CONFERENCE "STRONG SOCIAL DIALOGUE AND SOCIAL
PARTNERS: AN ADDED VALUE FOR PROGRESS“

10. April 2017  •406•    Further

A strong message from the meeting:You can not join the EU if you do not respect workers' rights
In Belgrade on April 5-7, 2017 Conference "Strong Social Dialogue and Social Partners: an Added Value for Progress" was organized by the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia (CATUS) and European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). Besides two representative trade union confederations (CATUS and TUC NEZAVISNOST), participants of the Conference were trade union representatives from Austria (ÖGB), Belgium (FGTB and CGSLB), Bulgaria (CITUB), Poland (OPZZ), Romania (BNS), Slovenia (ZSS) and Sweden (LO). Information about the state of social dialogue in those countries were exchanged and European situation was presented – collective bargaining, right to strike, role and importance of trade union along with omnipresent marginalization and decrease of membership.
Serbia is practically at the very beginning – social dialogue is institutionalized but unsuccessful. The emergence of "new social partners" – American Chamber of Commerce, World Bank, IMF and especially Foreign Investors' Council (FIC) - influences the reduction of workers' rights and creates labour legislation. Main problem also represents weak employers' scene – Employers' Association, as the only social partner on the employers' side, which is actually not representative (all big employers are not its members), and consequently there is an evident unbalance of social dialogue where the importance of state prevails (the biggest social partner) and where trade unions are rather actors than social partners. The result of such a situation – crisis of collective bargaining, collective agreements are concluded only in the public sector, only one in the private sector (three which were concluded in the sectors of chemistry, construction and agriculture were unilaterally cancelled by Serbian Employers' Association), and the agreement for road maintenance was concluded and granted extended effect by employers' association which is not a member of SEA. Extended effect of the collective agreement which is envisaged by the Labour Law as a precondition for concluding collective agreement with a very high quota of 50% employees in a certain branch, sector or profession, has practically made the conclusion of collective agreements impossible. The result is labour legislation, laws such as Labour Law and Law on Pension and Disability Insurance which are adopted without consulting social partners and in an urgent procedure, as well as without ''green light'' and discussion at the Social-Economic Council.
Participants of the Conference expressed the importance of the exchange of information, examples of good practice (such as LO Sweden Global Deal, including Chamber of Commerce of Austria besides Employers' Association in the informal social dialogue), as well as the overall situation of social dialogue within the EU. It was pointed out that the contents of discussions could be useful in building the strategy of social dialogue and collective bargaining of the European Trade Union Confederation, then these educational and thematic meetings should be continued. The analysis of situation also gives support to the organization and implementation of concrete activities either at European or national level.

TEACHERS PUSHING FOR MORE JUSTICE

6. April 2017  •405•    Further

Acting in accordance with the petition signed by many employees in education, three representative trade unions in the sector – Teachers’ Union of Serbia, Trade Union of Employees in Education and GSPRS Nezavisnost – organised a series of activities meant at improving the status of non-teacher staff having secondary school diplomas, whose salaries are under the minimum prescribed by the law. The claim was accompanied by the other one: the general increase of coefficients. As none of these initiatives was seriously considered by the Government, a meeting with the Minister of Education Sarcevic was demanded, the result being the oral agreement made between social partners in the premises of the Government.
Both sides said they shared the position that not only salaries of the above-mentioned educated non-teaching personnel should be urgently increased, but also their coefficients radically increased and status generally improved. They also agreed that in order to surpass the national minimum all employees in the sector should be immediately granted a 15% salary increase. Mr. Sarcevic stressed his Ministry’s readiness to pay the first part of the increase in June and the second in last trimester of this year. The intention is to equalise salaries for similar jobs within the public sector and prevent absurd differences existing among its various parts.
It ought to be said that in February the national average salary was 47,000 dinars (380 euros) while in education it was only round 42,000 (340 euros). The unfairness of this fact becomes even more visible when one takes into consideration that in education 80% of the employees have university diplomas.

DECLINE OF SERBIAN TEXTILE INDUSTRY

30. March 2017  •404•    Further

Once upon a time, the area of Novi Sad (capital of Vojvodina Autonomous Province) was well known for its textile products. Even today, citizens of ex-Yugoslavia remember the names of then famous factories “Novitet”, NIT, “Niva” and “Fruska gora”, employing almost 5000 workers at the time. Unfortunately, from 1990 to 2010 this number sank to 1000 and it is nowadays only 500! The facts seem less strange if one takes into consideration that in those years the total number of Serbian textile workers decreased by 60,000 (from 100,000 to 40,000). Moreover, there is no hope that such trend can be reversed...
Reasons for this are many, one of them being the privatisation and restructuring which left thousands of workers without a job. Tendency to dismiss “superfluous” workers and put an additional burden on the back of those who stay, is typical not only of Serbia. The same is with another crucial factor, which is in the background of these two phenomena: the unfair competition of China and India. Without Government’s assistance in monitoring and limiting import of goods which are the result of different forms of dumping, our factories had almost no chance to survive.
A few years ago they still had a way-out by accepting “lohn jobs” (finishing works for foreign partners who provided them with material), but nowadays that option does not exist, as ex-partners left for China, India and Vietnam where labour force is much cheaper. The lack of jobs has been accompanied by the overflow of cheap imported goods, which made big textile factories diminish production/number of employees and then often close down. The home-production was continued mostly in small companies working at the edge of informal economy where no unions are allowed and workers enjoy almost no rights.

"GOSA" SMEDEREVO: WORKER COMMITTED SUICIDE

29. March 2017  •403•    Further

Our colleague Dragan Mladenovic committed suicide at work place in “GOSA” wagon-factory, where he had worked for 35 years. His death is only a top of an iceberg hiding truth about hard lives of 375 workers who although regularly doing their job, see their wages paid only once in a while. It is obvious that the law was breached, as Slovakia-based company “ZOS Trnava”, which acquired “GOSA” in 2007, has long not been complying with its obligations towards employees and the State.
Dragan’s death came only a week before decisive negotiations which might have been a step forward towards finding a positive solution to social partners’ common problem. Workers are angry because production has been going on and the employers profiting, while finding money for wages and contributions was always a problem. Getting “assistance” of only 6,000 dinars (50 euros) a month gives them certainly no possibility to live with at least minimum of decency. Having all this in mind, one can understand why there are workers who sometimes cannot stand high tension and hopelessness, and decide to part from the world.
Trade unions will cover funeral costs and help the family of the late colleague. At the same time, they remind the public that “since the start of the privatisation they have not only been issuing warnings about dangerous behaviour of the employers not (or irregularly) paying wages, taxes and contributions to social funds, but were also continually pressing the Government to use all legal mechanisms to prevent this and protect its citizens”. Reminding that “GOSA” workers’ wages were coming with 15 month (!) delay, CATUS asks company’s directors how they and their families managed to survive in difficult times when “there was no money”.

IS SOCIAL DIALOGUE "SWEET POISON"?

20. March 2017  •402•    Further

President of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia Ljubisav Orbović sees social dialogue as “a sweet poison'' which making you believe you are close to the agreement, leaves you empty-handed. “We have a situation where collective agreement is signed and then soon cancelled by the employers' association. Is it a model we strive for? Will it lead us to the EU? Does fraudulent behaviour – “today we sign the agreement, tomorrow we cancel it” – resemble social dialogue? asked Orbović at the meeting “Tripartism in the State's Shadow”, organised by CATUS and TUC Nezavisnost and supported by Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Making an allusion to the subject matter he pointed out that our Labour Law was like a shadow hanging over trade unions. Fifteen years passed in futile attempts to come to a win-win situation, but up to now very few positive results in the realisation of employees’ interests have been achieved.
"Employers' organisations are not representative, nor are the 20,000 small trade unions. In the Railway of Serbia there is a union with two members, founded by two dismissed directors who appointed themselves as president and secretary", ironised Orbović. He added that in Belgrade Public Transport there were 25 trade unions because legislation “favourises personal interests and facilitates the ruin of trade unionism''. According to him, besides trade union representativity, it was also necessary to determine the representativity of employers' associations. Reacting to the recommendations coming from the ''Analysis of Capacities and Organizational Structure of Social Dialogue Participants'' made by a group of experts, CATUS President underlined that the reduction of quotas necessary for determining representativity, was one of the factors additionally contributing to the fragmentation of trade unions and devaluation of social dialogue.
President of TUC Nezavisnost Zoran Stojiljković said that social dialogue was a key element of the “culture of tolerance and dialogue” and inseparable component of a broader concept of democracy. ‘However, social dialogue in Serbia doesn't deserve a passing mark’, he commented.
Speaking about Slovenian experience, President of the Autonomous Trade Union Confederation of Slovenia, Dušan Semolič explained that the biggest enemy of social dialogue was the neo-liberal policy of some European institutions devoid of their democratic capacities and under influence of the rich. ‘I want to emphasise once more the role of trade unions in the fight for workers' and social rights, one of them being the social dialogue - an irreplacable instrument for safeguarding them’, he said.
''Employers and trade unions should use negotiations on the EU accession as an instrument helping them to find right form of social dialogue'', stressed Tanja Miščević, chief negotiator in that process. She pointed out that negotiating team was ready to mediate in finding the best solution. „We try to base negotiations on objective analysis, not on anyone’s subjective feeling“, affirms Miščević and adds that we are about to have an exciting and serious debate on that not just at the Social and Economic Council, but at the Civil Society Convent and Parliamentary committees, too.
All participants agreed that it was necessary to strengthen the efforts directed at the improvement of social dialogue, not just in order to justify the opening of new chapters in the Stabilization and Association Agreement, but also to fortify the overall values, standards and tolerance vastly lacking in the region.
Only through their common engagement in Social and Economic Council, through finding common solutions to problems related to the implementation of reforms - and through raising awareness of the importance of social dialogue, will it be possible to make a significant step towards its genuine model.

CATUS ANNOUCEMENT FOR MEDIA
ON PAY RISE CAMPAIGN7

15. March 2017  •401•    Further

“Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia considers that the success achieved by the Government of Serbia in the past two, three years produced a solid basis for a significant increase of salaries in the Republic.
Тhe implementation of fiscal consolidation measures, which is primarily reflected in a considerable reduction of budget deficit, reduction of unemployment rate, increase of employment rate and many other positive results, justifies our claim for the increase of salaries and improvement of Serbian employees' financial and social position.
CATUS demands the country's economic progress be followed by the upgrade of employees' living standard. That would enable us not only to reduce inequalities and poverty, but to initiate economic growth and recovery, where all of us would be winners.
The fact that the cost of average consumer's basket in 2016 equalled 1.5 average salaries (374EUR) proves that salaries in Serbia are at an extremely low level.
When compared to average net salary in 2008 (402EUR), last year's salary decreased by 28EUR or 6.97%. We recall that at that time the cost of average consumer's basket equalled 1.3 average salaries.
Also, compared to majority of Central and East European countries average net salary in Serbia is significantly lower.
According to the research recently published by the European Trade Union Institute and European Trade Union Confederation, the average salary in Serbia in 2015 amounted to 368EUR while in the same year average salary in Slovenia equalled 1,020EUR, Czech Republic 745EUR, Croatia 750EUR, Slovakia 681EUR, Hungary 559EUR, Romania 427EUR, Montenegro 497EUR and Bosnia and Herzegovina 427EUR.
Average net salary was lower only in Macedonia, where it amounted to 365EUR and in Bulgaria, to 361EUR.
Not even EU workers are satisfied with their standard. As explained by the ETUC, they also don't feel any effect of economic recovery, as today's salaries in seven member states are lower than they were eight years ago, while salaries in 18 states grew much more slowly in the post-crisis period than during eight years before 2008.
ETUC points out that ''this is a very bad news, not just for workers and their families, but also for business, which means that if workers have less to spend, companies suffer as well".
ETUC has recently launched a campaign «Europe needs a pay rise — it's time for our recovery», in which CATUS actively participates.
We think that the time has also come for real recovery for workers in Serbia”.

TRAGIC OUTCOME :
29 WORKERS DIED AT WORK IN 2017

7. March 2017  •400•    Further

Fatal injuries at work most often happen in construction, and that's more than 50%, said the Chief of Labour Inspectorate in the Ministry of Labour, Maja Ilić. She reminded that in order to prevent injuries at work the Labour Inspection performed 900 controls in 2016, out of which 29 were fatal, 774 serious, while more than 62 criminal charges were pressed against unscrupulous employers. Currently, the Inspection has 238 inspectors who carry out controls in all sectors.
According to what Mrs Ilić said, all entities - both registered and unregistered - were subject to regular controls since it was legally allowed in 2015. The most frequent reasons of injuries at work were bad working conditions and lack of personal safety equipment. Ilic added that very often employers at construction sites hire workers without labour contracts, who are usually without much experience and consequently more susceptible to injuries at work. It is true the law clearly prescribes that if all occupational health and safety measures have not been applied at certain workplace, the employee can refuse to work, but general unemployment and possibility of losing job make people accept all – even the worst - offers.
The Chief Inspector also explained that if the injured worker was not registered, it’s the employer himself who assumes the whole responsibility. At that point, legally prescribed measures are taken including charges and criminal procedure.

GOVERNMENT TO PAY CONTRIBUTIONS
INSTEAD OF EMPLOYERS

6. March 2017  •399•    Further

Having decided to give one more possibility to workers to whom the employers didn’t pay contributions, the Government let the former postpone their consent until the end of this year. The decision was motivated by the fact that so far very few workers have accepted the deal - although last year they were repeatedly warned that no new postponement was to be expected. Many of those who would allegedly benefit from it (those who had been working in companies in restructuring and companies that went bankrupt) chose not to take the opportunity, knowing it would entail prepensioning and pensions considerably lower than the ordinary ones.
According to Government’s decision, the “bridging” of the gap made by the employers is related to those workers who on August 13, 2014 worked in companies in restructuring and fulfilled conditions for retirement, but whose contributions were not entirely paid - as well as to those who will have fulfilled these conditions this year. Money for this purpose would come from the budget, but unfortunately only the amount corresponding to minimum wage contributions will be paid to pension fund. In addition, all workers benefiting from it would have to renounce any further lawsuit at court.
From January 1, 1991 to December 31, 2003 Government paid contributions for 274,000 “forgotten” workers, in 66,163 companies. Total budgetary expense needed to cover almost half a million years of unpaid contributions (!) has amounted to 20,65 billion dinars! The best evidence of who really rules Serbia is the fact that courts have never been able to force shameless employers pay the lacking contributions – quite in accordance with the old capitalist principle of “privatising gains and socialising losses”.

HESTEEL IN SERBIA: MORE INVESTMENTS AND JOBS

27. February 2017  •398•    Further

Manager of Chinese-owned HESTEEL steelworks which is based in Smederevo confirmed his company’s intention to invest 120 million dollars this year in modernisation of production and creation of new jobs. He rejected accusation of dumping, a result of European Commission anti-dumping investigation, and claimed the steelworks would sell only Serbian, not Chinese products. Total volume of sales will be rather impressive, as company’s production amounts to 2.2 million tons a year.
“Over the last few years we have been satisfying 1 % of EU demand, but recently we have discovered new potentials in Serbia and neighbouring countries”, says company’s manager Sihai Song and adds the new investments are necessary if high European standards ought to be reached. Serbian expert for metallurgy, Nikola Majinski, sees Chinese efforts in context of “the fourth industrial revolution” and assures “they could considerably increase production and profits”.
For the moment, the employees define their relations with management as “satisfactory”. “Everything works regularly”, confirms Sinisa Prelic, president of the CATUS company trade union organisation, and concludes that "every day company looks for new workers, which raises up hopes of more youth employment”.

TRADE UNIONS IN PRIVATE ENTERPRISES -
EXCEPTION NOT A RULE

24. February 2017  •397•    Further

According to unionists and experts, trade union organisations in private enterprises are more of an exception than a rule, and the cause of that practice is high unemployment rate and fear of losing job.
Laws envisage trade unions in companies, but the right to organise them remains only on paper and is practiced mostly by employees in public sector. Even though there are accusations at the expense of employers, there is no information about whether anybody was punished for banning trade unions.
Everybody has the right to organise a trade union, but by the rule trade unions don't exist in private companies, and we often get stuck at the very first step when trying to establish them. When asked who is guilty and why the organised protection of workers doesn't exist, employers and Government point their finger to trade unions. On the other hand, the unions accuse employers.
"In today’s Serbia the fear of losing job is next to the fear of dying. Knowing this, employers simply blackmail the employees ", says Goran Milić, from Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Vojvodina. However, he agrees that it's possible to do more in order to encourage employees in small and medium enterprises and find new ways of their organisation.
There are, however, employers who are pro-union oriented. For example, Stanko Krstin, from Employers' Association of Vojvodina, who says he is happy for union’s presence in his company. He also points out that it's unnatural for social-economic dialogue to be exercised only with trade unions in public enterprises and calls for strict respect of existing laws. Moreover, he strongly supports the idea of a general collective agreement for Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and claims it could be reached at best through tripartite dialogue.
Unfortunately, for the time being such examples are rather rare, as most of the employers follow models of behaviour typical of early capitalism which in no way should make part of European social model.

LAW SHOULD NOT PUNISH PENSIONERS

22. February 2017  •396•    Further

CATUS efforts aimed at abolishing the legal “punishment” of those becoming pensioners before reaching the official pension age (65 for men and 60 for women), but having completed the full age of service (40 years for men and 35 years for women), have been warmly welcomed by the public. The claim was put at the agenda of the Social and Economic Council, but it seems that negotiations are all but easy and to predict when CATUS amendments to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance could be amended - if ever – is pretty hard.
Dusko Vukovic, CATUS Vice-President is very strict in criticising the obstruction made in the Council and meant to continuously postpone the solution of the problem. He is also very explicit in finding the rule, which ‘despises’ the 40 years spent at work and takes from pensioners a considerable amount of already very low pensions, highly unjust. “The unions see no justice in punishing those who for so many years have been paying their contributions to pension funds regularly”, he says and adds that “something similar could be understood only in case of a deep crisis threatening the very fundaments of the state”. In regular circumstances, he concludes, “it could be accepted only for some years - until the official pension age (i.e. 65/60 years) has been reached”.
It is a fact that the reducing of the expected amount by 20 % is a big sacrifice for those having low pensions. One can easily understand the iniquity of the above-mentioned rule if one takes into consideration that during their work life all employees are obliged to pay 14 % of their wages to pension funds and thus are more burdened than the employers who pay only 12%. Following the unions’ calculations, the result of the “punishment” is the loss, which sometimes rises up to two and half pensions a year! Therefore they are resolute to go on lobbying for their amendments – especially because there were rumours that Serbian Association of Employers was sending signals disclosing its willingness to accept the amendments if their rationality was proved.

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
CELEBRATED IN SERBIA

21. February 2017  •395•    Further

On the occasion of the International Day of Social Justice Serbian unions issued a statement saying that in our country social justice is present only in legal acts while in reality there are only the ever growing economic and social differences. Mechanisms aimed at reducing them must exist but what lacks is a political will, they say. The only solution, according to them, would be the joint action of those who suffer the most - workers, unemployed, pensioners, media employees and those who although highly educated see no future here.
The celebration of IDSS might help to sensitise people to the problem and possible solutions while propagating an economic and social model where workers have better wages and more labour and social rights. It is becoming more and more obvious throughout the world that current crisis cannot be overcome without rising the demand and that by getting a bigger share for themselves workers will also contribute to overall recovery. The role of trade unions in creating a new and more humane reality is not only desirable but also indispensable.
In order to raise awareness necessary in struggles-to-come the unions organised a round table, press conference and distribution of leaflets in the very centre of Belgrade. The media coverage was good and enabled citizens to learn more about this important issue. Overcoming political apathy – result of betrayed hopes related to democratic revolution of 2000 - will not be easy but unionists are resolute to go on fighting. One of their most efficient tools will certainly be the ETUC campaign for pay rise, which is slowly, but unstoppably accelerating all over the Europe.

DIFFICULT POSITION OF EMPLOYEES WITH
CONTRACTS FOR TEMPORARY AND OCCASIONAL JOBS

14. February 2017  •394•    Further

For the past years the position of employees in the public sector has been made more difficult by the practice of prolonging the validity of contracts for temporary and occasional jobs ad infinitum. In neoliberal Serbia that type of contract proved to be the best way of hiring new workers where they are needed. The Government planning to sell the majority of its public property and also passing the law which banned new employment in the public sector obviously has no intention to spend money by concluding full-time contracts. While labour inspectors are persistently inviting people to report abuses, lawyers point out to the lack of Inspection's powers and slow court procedures.
Instead of a seasonal contract lasting 120 days in 12 months, contract for temporary and occasional jobs in public sector usually lasts several years. Trade unions' estimate shows that the percentage of those employed at such work places is getting higher and higher. Their salary is lower and they are deprived of the rights guaranteed by full-time contracts. "They are deprived of many things – annual leave, sick leave and so on. On the other hand, they have some kind of regular income, health and social protection – even though the feeling of insecurity stemming from the fact that tomorrow they could become redundant is undoubtedly bad", explains Aleksandar Radojević from the Trade Union of Public Utilities of Belgrade.
In the Labour Inspection they confirmed that out of around 3,500 court procedures which were initiated in 2016 due to the violation of labour rights there is a huge number of those related to the violation of contracts for temporary and occasional jobs. Labour inspectors now have two solutions at their disposal: either to initiate offence proceedings or make decision to terminate the employment (and this way force the employer to offer full-time contract to the worker). However, the problem is that employers more often decide to terminate the existing contract than offer a new one. That's the reason why workers, who have hard time finding a job, rarely report such cases, even though they can also do it anonymously. In this case employer and employee become accomplices, while the worst is that this happens in public enterprises where employer is the Government.
And when workers reach the court, labour disputes are not settled immediately but last for years. Dates of summons are set every two, three months, so in the lack of time and resources worker loses any will to fight for the justice at court – which makes an illusion that there aren't so many disputes.

MORE THAN 200,000 REDUNDANT ELDERS

3. February 2017  •393•    Further

In Serbia, people who are more than fifty years old and happen to lose their job mostly have trouble to find a new one, say the analysts. The worst is, they add, that the definition of the “elder” increasingly covers even those who are far under fifty. We are obviously facing a paradox: in a society whose population is continually growing old and where one is forced to work longer and longer in order to earn a decent pension, the old are becoming redundant and a kind of burden.
Very often, the elders with long work experience are fully ignored by the employers. In spite of writing and sending their CVs to many addresses, the bosses - usually looking for workers under thirty - rarely interview them. The problem of 200,000 workers above fifty years of age has become acute and hard to solve, at least within the economic system imposed by ruling Serbian neoliberals.
The real cause of the problem is the existence of a huge army of those looking for job and fiercely competing with each other. In such circumstances, the employers have a large ‘choice’ and are prone to prefer those who are more qualified, ready to accept inhuman black-mailing – and younger. In most cases, their decision is influenced by unfounded prejudice: the elders are said to learn more slowly and with more difficulties, they are more often ill than the young, etc.
The analysts have proved that frequent refusals cause people to feel mentally exhausted and lose self-confidence. In such conditions their ability to offer a convincing image to the employers is impaired, which makes their quest for job a never-ending story.

SERBIAN BOSSES DON'T COUNT OVERTIME WORK

30. January 2017  •392•    Further

Employers in Serbia increasingly keep workers at work place longer than eight hours. During last year the biggest number of complaints related to overtime work came from those working in wholesale and retail stores, construction, agriculture, food and catering industry.
In the unions they point out that overtime work usually exists in private sector, but it is also present in public sector and state administration. Both private and public employers think that staying at work two to three hours overtime shouldn't be paid, but the number of complaints sent to the Labour Inspection is still very small having in mind that most of employees are afraid of losing their job in case they report their boss.
According to the law, working week can be prolonged by eight hours at most and this work must be paid at least 26% more. Zoran Mihajlovic, CATUS Secretary, says that bosses often don't take into consideration night work and holiday daily allowance which should amount to 110% of basic salary according to the regulations. ''He adds that overtime work is almost never paid along with the salary, but is calculated as days off which usually fall through because they need to be used in the following six months or a year.
The worst is that legal provisions on overtime work lasting longer than eight hours a week, which envisage fines from 200,000 to 1.5 mil RSD, are most often ignored.

SERBIAN TEACHERS MIGHT STRIKE AGAIN

25. January 2017  •391•    Further

In a joint statement three representative teachers’ unions protested against the fact that despite the recent 6% increase, salaries in the sector were still legging behind the national average – and announced the possibility of organising a new joint strike.
Unions explain that while the national average salary is 45767 dinars per month (369 euros), the average salary in education is only 42320 dinars (341 euros) i.e. 8% less. It is scandalous that after the recent salary increase workers who only have basic or middle education still don’t reach the minimum (181 euros) guaranteed by the law! Mentioning difficulties these people are forced to cope with, unions asked for immediate increase of their salary-coefficients, allowing the possibility that the general adjustment might take place until the end of the year.
Speaking at the press conference, the representatives of three unions said that recent 6 % increase did not bring salaries to the level preceding the notorious wage-cut done by the Government two years ago. The proof thereof is the fact that the real value of salaries in education is still 5% to 6% lower than at that time. All this is pushing unions towards the strike, which could take place after the end of winter holidays, causing chaos and blockade of the whole education system. Anyway, say the unionists, the action is to be accurately prepared and parents duly informed and convinced about the equity of teachers’ claims.

GEOX VRANJE: ESTABLISHMENT
OF THE TRADE UNION ORGANISATION

23. January 2017  •389•    Further

Registration of the autonomous trade union organization in “Geox Vranje” lasted almost four months and is the proof of trade union's successful work in the factory, said Ružica Stošić, president of trade union council. The activities dedicated to the establishment of the company trade union organization, which finally proved its representativity by affiliating around 350 members, already began in July last year following the growing interest in affiliation, she emphasized. The green light was given after CATUS alarmed CGIL and IndustriAll which did their part of job, lobbying the company’s local management.
Reacting to arbitrary and false accusations of some other trade unions who said the new trade union committee would only obey company's management, the CATUS representative explained that such statements “were meant to harm successful activities of the autonomous trade union”. “Our organization”, she said, “was established exclusively in line with the provisions of CATUS Statute, Labour Law and Constitution and it won’t execute anyone else’s orders”, claimed Stošić. As she pointed out, there were democratic elections in the company's premises on November 4, which led to the offficial establishment of trade union organization – all this proving that the workers signed their affiliation forms freely.
The CATUS, which has been existing for 113 years, has always advocated for the respect of laws and workers' rights, as well as successful business, because only in that case the workers' rights can be completely realized, concludes Stošić.

UNIONS IN FIAT DISSATISFIED WITH
PRODUCTION AFTER THE END OF WINTER LEAVE

20. January 2017  •388•    Further

In FCA company the compulsory winter leave has finished and the employees returned to shop floor.
Autonomous trade union organization in Fiat isn't satisfied with the situation in factory, but hopes for the best. Its president Zoran Marković says he isn't satisfied with the fact that last year one of the three shifts was cancelled and there were many non-working days. “During 2016 there were 80 such days and workers were on paid leave. The factory plan was to produce 150,000 cars, but only around 60% was done”, declared Marković. However, he expects that this year Fiat will start full production, employ more workers and have less non-working days.
On the other hand, factory's financial director in Kragujevac, Fabricio Renci talks about about 85,000 units produced last year and expects the same production in 2017. For the time being there isn’t enough information about the beginning of production of the redesigned model 500L, he says.
In FCA company Serbia there are 2,500 employees at the moment.

TILL THE END OF MARCH ONE-TIME ASSISTANCE
FOR PUBLIC UTILITY WORKERS

17. January 2017  •387•    Further

Till the end of March around 68,000 employees in public utilities in Serbia are supposed to receive assistance in the amount of minimum wage, which is 22,620 dinars. As we have learned, the agreement made between trade union members and the Government is to be confirmed by the presidents of municipalities where these companies run their business.
“The plan was for everybody to receive money till March, but where that's not possible the companies will pay out the amount till the end of year. It shouldn't be forgotten that the employees in this sector have the lowest salaries (around 20% lower than average Serbian salary), and many of them don't receive them regularly”, said Milan Grujić, President of the Autonomous Trade Union of Public Utility Workers of Serbia.
He added that these resources would be paid out either at once or in installments. Otherwise, average salary of employees in public utilities amounts to 36,000 dinars (292 EUR).

PRIVATISATION OF PUBLIC UTILITIES

3. January 2017  •386•    Further

After a vote in the National Assembly which considerably increased the role of private capital in all 15 public utilities, Serbian citizens lost sovereignty in another part of public domain. In order to realise its strategy of privatising everything, our neoliberals resorted to concessions and public-private partnership, two models already used in similar situations all round the globe. So, from now on private interests will have much more say in distribution of water, central heating, garbage collection, maintenance of cemeteries, street lighting...
Public debate on draft law went on for more than a year but recently the Government has decided to adopt it through an urgent procedure, justifying it by the necessity of creating a better business climate in the country. It tried to assure the public that the new system would guarantee better services without any price increase. Its representatives said they hoped that private investments would help create new jobs and ease pressure on communal budgets. However, it is obvious that behind all this rush there were pressures coming from EU and IMF who fiercely fight state monopolies and want the door wide open for private investors in public sector.
Still, it ought to be said that aware of difficulties that might affect the working of utilities when left to free market mechanism, the Government decided to keep the possibility of watching over them. It was the example of Bulgaria and Romania which lost control over their communal infrastructure after the uncontrolled influx of foreign capital that made our politicians reflect on preserving the right to fix the rules the new enterprises will have to obey. For example, communal assemblies will closely monitor their behaviour and break the contracts with owners who do not respect their obligations, while the inspectors will be entitled to intensify their work.

SMEDEREVO STEELWORKS:
CHINESE INCREASE PRODUCTION

19. December 2016  •385•    Further

While both giant furnaces in the steelworks bought by the Chinese “He steel” are working, the demand for its production is constantly growing, says Sinisa Prelic, President of the CATUS company trade union organisation. In order to satisfy clients, management decided to employ few hundred new workers, he adds and announces the contest at the end of January next year.
After years of tensions (consequence of former owners' policies), it seems that difficult times are over and steelworks is operating in stable circumstances where workers can do their best. “We are quite capable of reaching targets set by the management, people feel relaxed and are not having serious problems, agree the unionists and praise the Chinese who successfully restructured the work process. Not long ago the salaries were increased and now are better than in similar companies in the region. The workers hope that growing profit will strengthen that trend.
The plans of automatising the existing production lines and building a new (also automatised) one for fabrication of steel products might raise doubts about the future of the work force, but it is yet too early to start worrying about it. The employers behave correctly and - preparing for a long stay - are quickly acquiring knowledge of Serbian. The unionists hope that very soon their factory will stop being a burden for country’s budget and taxpayers, who have been financing its deficit for years.