Public sector strikes back in Serbia

Two of Serbia’s largest groups of public employees have launched strikes in the past week over the government’s austerity plans.

Four education unions organized a “warning protest” that a union leader said affected more than 1,200 schools on 2 October, InSerbia reports.

Teachers are angry over planned salary cuts and what union president Tomislav Zivanovic said was the government’s preference for cutting wages “by law” instead of through collective bargaining, InSerbia reports. Parliament passed a new labor code in July that makes it easier for employers to hire and fire workers and ends industry-wide collective bargaining, among other things.

Labor leaders threatened to extend the strike to classes across the country in mid-October if their demands are not met.

The teachers’ work stoppage comes days after five police unions went on strike seeking payment of bonuses and other compensation they say is overdue, as well as assurances from Interior Minister Nebosja Stefanovic that the salary cuts will not hit their members.

In September, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced plans to cut pensions and public-sector wages as part of a 700 million euro ($898 million) savings package. He said Serbia’s public sector wages are about 40 percent higher than those paid by private companies, and reductions would range from 10 percent to 20 percent.

But another teachers union leader, Slobodan Brajkovic, said the country’s teachers’ salaries were comparable to those of drivers or secretaries in some ministries, even though most teachers have a higher education.

Stefanovic called the police strike illegal and urged police officers “who know what a badge and uniform mean” to return to work. He said less than 5 percent of union members were on strike with no great effect on operations, but the Autonomous Police Union, which organized the strike, said more than 90 percent of police officers from across Serbia had participated.

Deep as they may seem to some public employees, the cuts are not as drastic as originally proposed by the country’s former finance minister, Lazar Krstic, who resigned in July after Vucic refused to back his proposals to cut public sector wages by at least 15 percent and lay off 160,000 employees within two years, among others measures.

This article was originally published by Transitions Online.


Tags: ,


Share this Post