Serbian workers win new CBA in Vojvodinašume
The Branch Trade Union of Forestry and Woodworking Workers of Serbia and the United Trade Union Organization of Vojvodinaforest, Petrovaradin on 21 September won a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) covering 1,450 workers employed in “Vojvodinašume” (Vojvodinaforest), a public company which holds an FSC FM/COC certificate.
The new CBA came into force on 1 October for a period of three years. It advances the rights of employees and the union, and provides a range of better benefits, such as longer use of annual and paid leave credits, the right to reimburse travel expenses to and from work, increased salaries, hot meals, regress, jubilee awards, solidarity assistance, activities for prevention of work disability and rehabilitation, safety and health at work and particularly, the protection of trade union representatives from dismissal. It also includes a list of all jobs (workplaces) with coefficients by departments/sectors.
The CBA also provides special protection to trade union representatives from unjust termination of their employment contracts and transfer to disadvantaged and lower-salaried jobs, and to another place of work. The agreement also protects union representatives from a declaration of redundancy for a period of one year, after the termination of their function in the trade union.
The agreement foresees the union’s strong role in the commissions for compensation of damages, when there is a surplus of employees, in case of dismissal by employer, in proceedings before termination of employment or imposition of another measure. The employer is obliged to consider initiatives, proposals, opinions and requests of the union beforehand enactment of any general act of importance for the material-economic, labour and social situation of employees and to declare its position to the Union in relation to their opinion.
It was reported that the agreement’s negotiations, which were described as “intense,” lasted for 45 days. It took the union negotiating team three months to prepare.
“Our union’s negotiating team composed of five local union shop stewards and an expert on collective agreements, secured by the Branch Trade Union of Forestry and woodworking Workers of Serbia, showed great experience and cooperation during the negotiations. By bringing an expert to the union's negotiating team, we have shown credibility and strong commitment to develop the best possible solutions which have been recognised with respect by the employer’s negotiation team. Good preparation is half of the work,” said Miljana Županjac, President of the United Trade Union Organization of the Public Company “Vojvodinašume” Petrovaradin.
After the final text was agreed by the two negotiating teams, it was submitted to the Provincial Secretary of Vojvodina for the Forestry Sector, who expressed satisfaction with the CBA’s proposals and called for the official signing ceremony in presence of representatives of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, the Director of the Public Company “Vojvodinašume” Petrovaradin and the President of the United Trade Union Organization of the Public Company “Vojvodinašume” Petrovaradin.
After the signing of the CBA, a coordination body to monitor the implementation and resolution of ambiguities that might arise in the CBA’s implementation, was formed. It is comprised of 3 representatives for the union and employer. The union will monitor the country’s economic parameters and the health and safety conditions of workers who are directly employed or working for subcontractors.
The President of the Branch Trade Union of Forestry and Wood Processing of Serbia, Zoran Radoman, expressed satisfaction with the CBA, which he said improved workers' rights and provided protection to trade union representatives, who can now freely act as union officials, without fear of repression and threats from the management.
“This new CBA is another important step towards achieving decent work in the forestry industry and achieving mutual trust in collective bargaining. This will also contribute to our national level efforts. Currently, our Trade Union Confederation (CATUS) is pushing for the amendment of Article 188 of the Serbian Labour Law to provide full protection to union representatives in line with ILO Convention No. 135 otherwise known as the ‘Workers’ Representatives Convention.”