On 23-25 June 2022, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, EU TACSO 3 project organised a P2P On-demand regional event on the topic “Collaboration between Trade Unions and Civil Society Organisations in the Western Balkans region”. The event’s objective was to discuss the need for an improved conducive environment for the rights of workers in Western Balkan through CSOs capacity development and expansion of cooperation between CSOs and CSOs and trade unions in the region. It also aimed to set the foundation for future networking of CSOs and trade unions both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region that will jointly tackle the issue of protection of labour and human rights, both women and men. Participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo* and Serbia attended the event.
Mr Richard Allen, Team Leader of the EU TACSO 3 project, invited participants to discuss and share successful practices of cooperation between civil society and the trade union sector in the region in the context of joint activities in promotion and advocacy for labour rights. He added that this P2P event served as a platform for sharing experiences and learning from experts from the EU context, as well as to connect participants and to initiate new collaboration and actions of trade unions and CSOs in the future, as the need of raising awareness of labour rights rises.
During the introductory session, participants had the opportunity to hear a general overview of the Global and EU labour and trade union trends with a focus on differences/similarities in their operational work and potential prejudices in understanding. Also, the event panelists, experts from Western Balkan region countries, presented legal frameworks and positive stories from the practical work in their countries. Sessions content brought intense discussion and interest between participants at the very beginning of the event.
Marina Palčić from Independent trade union Croatia initiated talks with representative of Association Zora to create alliance with them and Commerce and trade union of BiH to open talks and negotiations about protection of labour rights and working conditions of workers in company “INovine”. Company INovine works both in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Marina thought that stronger alliance between trade unions in both countries alongside CSO in respective field would give them better fighting chance in improvement of working conditions and better position in collective bargaining for those workers in both countries.
The second day of the Conference offered presentations on Labor and human rights, laws and policy advocacy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Participants had the opportunity to hear experiences from Bosnia and Herzegovina in terms of positions of unions as integral partners for the protection of labour rights, and the legal framework for the protection of labour rights and collective agreement as baseline tool of trade unions for the improvement of labour rights. Guest speakers from Serbia and Croatia spoke about the Europe floor wage concept, Capacity building of trade union branches through donor funds in cooperation with the non-governmental sector and Experiences in creating the Labor Law in Croatia.
Zlatibor Kojčić, president of Textile and footwear trade union of Federation BiH has invited representative of Association Zora on a meeting with “IndustriAll Europe” and Swedish “Unionen” to discuss why Swedish company Kavat in Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn’t have factory trade union and what next steps to take in order to open this trade union factory branch and improve labour conditions and labour rights in this factory.
The third day, facilitators of the conference suggested The way forward in cooperation between CSOs and trade unions from the perspective of a trade union and CSOs. This conference was one of the recommendations from an on-line event in December 2021 on the same topic specifically for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Vanja Stokić from Association eTrafika and media outlet eTrafika.net was in particular keen to know more about concept and methodology of Clean Clothes Campaigns, Europe floor wage calculation for BiH and region. She will do an article on the topic of living wage in BiH in order to promote the concept. Additional information and statements for article and promotion of living wage concept will provide Armin Šestić from Association Zora.
Anica Ramić from Association Stop Mobbing made contact with representatives of Trade union confederation of Republika Srpska to open discussion and arrange meetings regarding the necessity for stronger alliance between CSOs and trade unions fighting against workplace abuse.
Some of the conclusions and recommendations at the end of the event were the following:
- On this event we learned there is a lot of space for further cooperation, both Trade Unions and CSO’s expressed interest. Different perspectives, and different way of doing, can provide added value. Good balance in participation was achieved, participation from TU and CSO side was similar, it was very important and gave opportunity for relevant discussions. For further events gender balance is also recommended.
- Cooperation between CSOs and trade unions exists but its far beyond its true potential.
- Trade unions and CSOs needs to open more for future cooperation and except needs and constraints of each other in order to develop and implement actions towards protection of labour rights.
- Trade unions need to attract more women into its leadership. Education and work with women from the union is essential.
- Jointly we need to advocate towards donors in particular EU to include trade unions as eligible applicants for human rights and labour rights related calls for proposals.
- There is a necessity to form alliances especially when it comes to the topics such as “living wage” and workplace abuse.
- To explore possibility to create Academy for young union leaders. It is of great importance to include more young workers into trade unions and to educate young trade unionist to become leaders within their trade union branches.
- We need to jointly explore possibilities for improvement of image of trade unions among workers and general public. Visibility of trade unions needs to be improved.
- Education of workers about Labour law, safety at work, workplace abuse and all other labour rights issues is crucial. Workers general knowledge about their rights is at its minimum.
 * This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.