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.