Interview with Lejla Catic

25 July 2018 19:34

Lejla Catic – president of the Independent Trade Union of Forestry, Wood Processing and Paper of Bosnia and Herzegovina which  brings together public and private sector workers of forestry, wood processing, furniture manufacturing and other wooden products, paper processing and paper product manufacturing.  She has been a member of the trade union since May 2000.

What do you think is the most important issue facing women workers?

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is almost no discussion about the role of women in the society and in in the industrial sector. Women in B&H suffer various types of violence, both in the family and at work. When it comes to women in the forestry, wood processing and paper sectors, we can say that women are doing the same work men do with the same working conditions without any consideration of special needs of women. Unfortunately women in B&H cannot even recognize mobbing and various types of harassment, and thus, don’t know how to fight back. There is a need to work with them to raise their awareness.

What do you think is the role of trade unions to improve the situation for women workers?

I think the responsibility of trade unions is to raise awareness among women workers about their rights and to educate them how to fight for their rights. The basic problem is how to outreach to women workers, and how to encourage them to talk openly about a family problem that could influence work, and how to openly, without fear of the employer, talk about problems and needs at the work place.

BWI sectors are male-dominated industries, be it at work or in the union, how do you think you can bring change in both the workplace and in your unions?

Speaking from personal experience, progress in the work of trade unions is possible only with the direct continuous contacts of trade union representatives and members-workers. Through work in the field, with workers and by involving them in finding a solution for their everyday problems, challenges and demands we can change workplaces and unions.

What advice would you give to young women who have just joined the union?

According to the experience at the Trade Union of Forestry, Wood Processing and Paper of B&H, as well as the experience gained at the Trade Union of Construction and Construction Materials Industry of B&H, for which I worked for seven years in parallel, behind a well-organized trade union organization and the successful work of the male commissioner there is always a woman. Women in trade union organizations are doing all the important jobs, communicating with their members, receiving their requests and contacting the Central Union. However, when selecting women as representatives, they usually retire with the desire to stay in the "shadow" and not to be targeted by the employer. Women have to go to the front line and not be afraid. I think young women are a great asset to the trade union.

How do you think men can support women and the campaign for gender equality?

Many men in B&H support gender equality, but whe it comes to behavior there is no gender equality. I appreciate the inclusion of men in the campaign. Carry out campaigns like "Do not Be a Bully," "Be A Man," "Respect Women," etc.

Why should trade unions play an active role in the campaign to stop gender-based violence in the work place and how can unions support women?

Changing stereotypes of gender-based violence is important because it is a task of trade unions to address this issue by protecting and promoting the rights of women who are victims of gender-based violence in general, but also in a working place.

It is necessary to deal more with concrete data on what kind of violence women encounter in the workplace, how much they are affected by family violence, and how it impacts on women in the performance of their jobs at the workplace. Women who are victims of domestic violence are usually vulnerable and worried, and thus are the target of the abuser in the workplace.

The trade union in the struggle for workers' rights can more specifically address the problem of women. Our union has a formed Section - Women's Forum. It deals with introducing a female worker to legal legislation, providing legal assistance, and representation of a woman in trade unions.