By Miodrag Stosic
Belgrade, Sept. 21, 2009 (Serbia Today) - Unions, the form of workers’ organizing aimed to acquire better working conditions, have a long history in Serbia. The first league of independent unions appeared in the 19th century. In May 1903, existing trade unions formed Workers’ league of Serbia. Contemporary „League of independent unions“ is a successor of this organization, and it celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003.
In May 2009, a statute of „League of independent unions“ was adopted, defining this institution as organization of interest which realizes and protects working, economic, social and professional interests and rights of the union members. League’s activities are determined by a combination of territorial and branch principles. Also, work of this institution is set on principles of democracy in work, labor division and respect for competence. This statute strives to regulate one of the most important matters in every union – its independence and integrity. By statute, this organization is independent from employers, authorities, and political parties. It is necessary to isolate a League from all abuses and instrumentalization attempts.
“League of independent unions“, with Ljubisav Orbović as its leader, last several years has intensified activities, which include permanent communication with workers, employers and authorities. Also, League works on law propositions which would respect workers’ rights. In August this year, League laid down the proposition for minimum wage in the last period of 2009. At the League’s session in Kruševac, capital buyers are called to respect their duties. At the beginning of September, there was another session, at which Government’s Plan for social security was analyzed, as well as foundation of League’s office which would cover municipalities in Vojvodina.
In November 2006, another union organization, „United branch unions – Independence“ (established in 1991), adopted its statute. It drew the directions for activities in changed socio-political circumstances. „Independence“ includes 18 branch unions all over Serbia. This organization also stresses that one of its main characteristics is independence and defence of democracy principle in work and workers’ rights. To provide greater level of independence, this organization stresses the principle of self-financing – all funds it handles are gathered from membership fees.
Organization „Independence“ has a constant connection to authorities, taking part in making law propositions and expressing attitude towards all the matters important for workers’ problems. In July 2009, „Independence“ negotiated with Ministry of culture to sign a collective agreement for all employees in culture. President of this organization, Branislav Čanak, expressed his attitude concerning the Government’s plan to increase VAT, underlining that this move would have a disastrous impact on workers and cause social unrest. Also, during past few days, „Independence“ has been a part of Government’s working group, engaged in working on a new law on disability pension inssurance.
Activities of unions in Serbia are determined, besides their internal organization, by political circumstances which surround the country. World economic crisis revealed all the problems that unions face. To solve common workers’ problems in an appropriate way, it is necessary to appear in front of the Government with unity, and to take part in making laws. That is the only way Serbia could answer to challenges of crisis.