BWI and EBRD conduct joint site visits to Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 12-14 October, BWI, with representatives from its headquarters, affiliates and assigned organisers, conducted joint site visits with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) safeguard team to five (5) sites in the Corridor X (Serbia) and Corridor Vc (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) projects.

The visits covered a variety of projects, including the construction of a major bridge and tunnel works, as well as access roads and highways. The EBRD, represented by Debbie Cousins, Head of the Environment & Sustainability Department Operations, Maja Jacimovska, Regional Associate Environmental and Social Adviser, and Ian Harper, EBRD Consultant specialist on Occupational Safety and Health, led the delegation and provided valuable insight into the work of the bank when it comes to the application of its performance standards, as well as client and contractor relations.

Some of the mission’s findings that will be further probed by BWI and EBRD are gaps in OHS implementation, lack of welfare facilities for subcontracted workers, and little to no support for workers' freedom of association. A much-appreciated confirmation of the bank's commitment to freedom of association was made to clients and contractors throughout the visits. This commitment will be at the core of a follow up that will conducted by BWI affiliates regarding the mission’s findings.

Meanwhile, the lack of cooperation between the labour inspection of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Trade Union of Construction and Industry of Construction Materials (SGIIGMBIH) was observed by the BWI team. They deemed that this situation has to be significantly improved as fast as possible.

In Serbia, there is better cooperation between the Autonomous Trade Union of Road Maintenance and the Labour inspection directorate. Open communication channels between the unions and the respective labour inspections proved to be crucial and important as these ensure proper monitoring of working conditions and the full enforcement of the concluded branch (sector) collective agreements that apply to all employers in the respective sectors.

Members of the joint visits were also invited to an open discussion on how to further ensure workers' welfare and health and safety at worksites, strengthening BWI's longstanding collaboration with the EBRD, and demonstrating to other international financial institutions how meaningful engagements with local and global trade unions should be pursued.