Threats of dismissals cause the strike in Post Serbia to end

Photo: Marko Miletić / Mašina

The self-organised workers of Post Serbia and the Serbian government signed an agreement, thus ending the strike in the company. The agreement guarantees partial improvements of the workers’ financial condition, without actually fulfilling their demands.

Yesterday, on the ninth day of the strike in Post Serbia, a meeting occurred between the negotiating team of the self-organised workers and Nebojša Stefanović, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Interior Minister. The two parties signed an agreement deciding the discontinuance of the strike.

It took the state authorities a little more than a week to assume decisive action with regards to the strike. The fact that Stefanović, one of PM Aleksandar Vučić’s closest associates, was appointed to negotiate after the line minister and the company’s CEO, describes the seriousness of the state authorities’ approach to this issue, and, likewise, the strengthof the workers’ collective action.

Nevertheless, it is important to point out that the authorities had a significant deterrent at hand – namely, threat of dismissals. Though the company’s director promised that the threats won’t be realised, and that the strikers will suffer no sanctions, the said actions have formally never been withdrawn, while a part of the workload was handled by workers who were transferred from other assignments and posts to the strikers’ work positions. The striking workers were threatened to lose their jobs if the strike continues, a threat which the Government used to their advantage in the negotiations.

The main demand of the workers was that their “salaries rise to match the state average”. According to the workers, Post Serbia is a profitable company which can afford to meet the demands of the market, making it “shameful that 13 000 employees struggle to make a living”.

A large part of the conclusions made by the negotiating team, which were published on the Government’s official internet page, refer to raises. However, the conclusions are not phrased as a direct answer to the workers’ demands – instead, it is stated that the Government will introduce measures leading to raises no sooner than November.

The Government did commit to assure an apportionment of the second part of the profit the company made in 2017, and an apportionments of the profit from 2018. The distribution of the profit will thus be used as a kind of a “first aid” for the workers, though it should be understood and should not represent a part of the regular income.

One single week of shutdown in Post Serbia, a system important for the state, was enough to force the government to react quickly and solve the issues brought forth by the workers. A high level of solidarity and decisiveness expressed by the self-organised workers certainly forced a fast reaction of the state authorities, though, as it turned out, the strikers lacked strength to push their demands all the way. This strike represents a significant experience in self-organising for many workers in Post Serbia, one that could become more serious and stronger in a possible future step.

The biggest loser of the event are the trade unions, as legally recognised workers’ organisations. Their unwillingness to take part in the strike, followed by an attempt to step in and negotiate demands and conditions which they didn’t formulate in the first place, further alienated most of the workers, and motivated many to step out from the trade unions.

M.M.

Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić

This article was originally published in Serbian on Apr 1, 2019.

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