South East Europe Union leaders from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia discussed the situation of workers and trade union rights and developed ideas on bringing back the power to the people to fight for workers’ rights. BWI country group 9 met on 21 September 2017 in Belgrade, Serbia.
The general assessment of the representatives of the BWI affiliates in this part of Europe is that existing socio-economic models are not satisfactory for the workers and the trade unions, as they are not based on bipartite and tripartite social dialogue and an efficient and regulated economic and labour market. Obvious cases of employers' interference in union organisation and matters, especially in the forestry sector, manifest a further deterioration of social partnership.
Neoliberal trends are being further developed, pushing workers and large parts of society into more poverty and unsecure future. The position of collective agreements is weakening, especially at national and sectorial levels and in the private sector. Almost as a rule, only statutory minimum wages are paid, although companys' profits have started to increase. In BWI sectors, especially in the construction sector, the precarious forms of employment are becoming predominant, undermining fundamental human, labour and trade union rights. Poverty is growing among the workforce, and there is an increasing gap between various parts of society. The functioning of state institutions, especially courts and labour inspections is not satisfactory, because they do not ensure effective implementation of regulations and collective bargaining agreements.
In recent years, the countries in the region have been facing migration flows of workers towards the west of Europe in search for better working conditions and higher wages, leaving the employers in BWI sectors in these countries without the necessary skilled labour force. Therefore, the wages must be raised and working conditions and social dialogue improved to mitigate negative trends the workers, but also employers, are increasingly being faced with.
Among others, the meeting discussed the BWI draft Strategic plan 2018 – 2021. “The BWI affiliates in South-east Europe particularly support priority 3 “Youth in Unions”. "It is crucial that our young workers and trade unionists be fully integrated in union structures and activities to allow them to act through local union organisations and bodies, as well as, in industrial and other actions and take part in negotiations on collective bargaining agreements. Therefore, we want to welcome the proposed incorporation of youth in the BWI decision-making bodies in the future. We want our youth to gain experiences and knowledge and take more responsibilities in our national and global union federations”, says Jasenka Vuksic, president of the SGH, Croatia and BWI World Council member.
The meeting reaffirmed their support to the proposed Resolution 21 “Unity and Solidarity in the region of Pan – Europe”, proposed by SGIP; Macedonia and the process of finding the best solution for the cooperation and functioning of the BWI and EFBWW that would take into consideration the needs of the unions in South-east Europe. The Group also agreed on the nominations for BWI bodies at global level and reaffirmed their dedication for mutual cooperation and solidarity in challenging times for workers and their families.