In an interview with the Regional Information Agency JUGpress, Duško Vuković, vice president of the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia (CATUS), said that representatives of CATUS from all over Serbia would gather in Leskovac on May Day and that CATUS expects between 1,500 and 2,000 people to join the protest.
“On the one hand, we will gather to pay tribute to the previous generations of unionists, who introduced eight-hour workday, decent wages, and something we can call decent work, and on the other hand, we want to warn that in the last few decades, under the onslaught of liberal capitalism, the respect for workers’ and trade union rights is diminishing. We will mark Labour Day and send a message to our members and other employees in Serbia, as well as to the world of financial capital and politics, that the laws of this country should be respected, that the Constitution of this country should be respected and that, as much as the employer’s interest is to profit, workers also have their interest, and that is to have good, safe and healthy working conditions and good earnings,” Vuković told JUGpress.
According to Vukovic, the city of Leskovac and Yura factory were chosen for the location of the protest as symbols of disrespect for workers’ and trade union rights in Serbia. Judging by the previous news from this factory, which you could read about in Mašina, the choice of location is certainly not random and the struggle of local union representatives deserves attention and support.
On the other hand, the announced celebration of May Day in Leskovac reveals the shortcomings of the trade union movement in Serbia. Namely, for a couple of years now, due to the pandemic, we have not had an organized trade union protest on the occasion of Labour Day, which was previously jointly organized by the two largest unions – CATUS and “Independence”. The pandemic May Day protests were preceded by feeble protests apparently led by the Minister of Labour, and giving up Labour Day to celebrate Orthodox Easter instead.
It is still uncertain whether some of the union headquarters will organize protests in Belgrade this year, but chances are that we will not see greater union unity for May Day either.
Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić
This article was ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Serbian on Apr 18, 2022.