Bosnia and Herzegovina
Section 7. Worker Rights
The new Federation and the RS labor laws provide for the right of workers in both entities to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. Employers in the private sector did not always respect these rights. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination but does not provide adequately for enforcement of these protections. The labor inspectorates and courts did not deal effectively with employees’ complaints of antiunion discrimination. The law prescribes reinstatement of dismissed workers in cases where there is evidence of discrimination, whether for union activity or other reasons. Entity-level laws in the Federation and the RS prohibit the firing of union leaders without prior approval of their respective labor ministries.
The law in both entities and in the Brcko District provides for the right to strike. The law in the Federation contains burdensome requirements for workers who wish to conduct a strike. Trade unions may not officially announce a strike without first reaching an agreement with the employer on which “essential” personnel would remain at work. Authorities may declare the strike illegal if no agreement is reached. This provision effectively allowed employers to prevent strikes. Laws governing the registration of unions give the minister of justice powers to accept or reject trade union registration on ambiguous grounds. According to informal estimates, approximately 40 percent of the work force was unregistered and working in the informal economy. Approximately 20 percent of the labor force in the informal economy worked without legal protections, such as contracts, access to health insurance, and eventual retirement benefits.
In August 2015 the Federation adopted a new labor law that entered into force in April. The delay in implementation was due to a Constitutional Court ruling stating that there was a procedural error in passing the legislation, so the House of Peoples had to reapprove it. As a result, trade unions, employers, and the government had to agree on new collective bargaining agreements that regulate matters such as minimum wages and various allowances. The RS also passed a new labor law, which entered into force in January. Negotiations between unions, employers, and the government on new collective bargaining agreements that will regulate minimum wage, wage increases based on experience, and other benefits and nontaxable allowances were still in progress there.
The government did not effectively enforce all applicable laws. Authorities did not impose sanctions against employers who prevented workers from organizing. Inspections related to worker rights were limited. Ministry inspectors gave low priority to violations of worker rights; state officials focused instead on bolstering state revenues by cracking down on unregistered employees and employers who did not pay taxes. Some unions reported that employers threatened employees with dismissal if they joined a union and in some cases fired union leaders for their activities. The Federation penalty for discriminating acts against unions or their members was 1,000 to 3,000 convertible marks ($540 to $1,620) and 5,000 to 10,000 convertible marks ($2,7 to $5,400) for repeated violations, while the RS penalty was 2,000 to 12,000 convertible marks ($1,080 to $6,480) and a minimum of 5,000 convertible marks ($2,700) for repeated violations. Entity-level penalties for violations included monetary fines that were not sufficient to deter violations. Judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.
Authorities and employers sometimes failed to respect freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The governments and organizations of employers and workers in both entities negotiated general collective agreements establishing conditions of work, including in particular private employers. It was not confirmed that all employers recognized these agreements. Trade union representatives alleged that antiunion discrimination was widespread in all districts.
The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Federation laws do not criminalize trafficking activities, but adequate legislation exists at the state level and in the RS and the Brcko District. The government did not enforce these laws effectively, but there was little verified evidence that forced labor occurred in the country. Penalties for violations range from three to 10 years in prison and were generally sufficient to deter violations, but resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate.
The prosecution of 13 BiH nationals for collusion in forced labor involving 672 victims of forced labor who were trafficked to Azerbaijan in 2015 continued in BiH court. There were reports that individuals and organized crime syndicates trafficked men, women, and children for begging and forced labor (see section 7.c.).
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
The minimum age for employment of children in both entities is 15; minors between the ages of 15 and 18 must provide a valid health certificate to work. RS and Brcko District laws penalize employers for hiring persons younger than 15. The labor codes of the Federation, the RS, and the Brcko District also prohibit minors between the ages of 15 and 18 from working at night or performing hazardous labor, although the Federation’s labor code does not define hazardous labor. Entity governments are responsible for enforcing child labor laws, and both entities and the Brcko District enforced them. Boys and girls were subjected to forced begging and involuntary domestic servitude in forced marriages. Sometimes forced begging was linked to other forms of human trafficking. In the case of Romani children, family members or organized criminal groups were responsible for both subjecting girls and boys to forced begging and domestic servitude in forced marriages. Several of the worst forms of child labor occurring in the country included the use of children for illicit activities, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and the use of children for the production of pornography (see section 6, Children).
During the year the government did not receive reports of child labor at places of employment. Neither entity had inspectors dedicated to child labor inspections; authorities investigated violations of child labor laws as part of a general labor inspection. The labor inspectorates of both entities reported that they found no violations of child labor laws, although they did not conduct reviews of children working on family farms. The government did not collect data on child labor. The general perception among officials and civil society was that exploitation of child labor was rare. RS law imposes fines for employing children younger than 16, but the law does not specify the exact monetary amount. Penalties were usually sufficient to deter violations.
During 2015 NGOs running day centers in Banja Luka, Tuzla, Mostar, Bijeljina, Bihac, and Sarajevo in cooperation with the country’s antitrafficking coordinator provided services to 129 at-risk children, many of whom were involved in forced begging on the streets.
Labor laws and regulations related to employment or occupation prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status, other communicable diseases, social status, religion, and national origin. The government generally enforced these laws and regulations effectively.
Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, disability, language, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, HIV-positive status, and social status (see section 6).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The monthly minimum wage in the Federation was 410 convertible marks ($221). In the RS, the monthly minimum wage was 370 convertible marks ($200), except in the textile and footwear sectors, where it was 320 convertible marks ($172). Brcko District did not have a separate minimum wage or an independent pension fund, and employers typically used the minimum wage rate of the entity to which its workers decided to direct their pension funds.
The legal workweek in both entities and the Brcko District is 40 hours, although seasonal workers may work up to 60 hours. The law limits overtime to 10 hours per week in both entities. An employee in the RS may legally volunteer for an additional 10 hours of overtime in exceptional circumstances. The Federation has no provision for premium pay, while the RS requires a 30 percent premium. Laws in both entities require a minimum rest period of 30 minutes during the workday.
Employers in each entity and the Brcko District must provide a minimum of nine paid annual holidays. Employees may choose which holidays to observe depending on ethnic or religious affiliation. Entity labor laws prohibit excessive compulsory overtime. The entities and the Brcko District did little to enforce regulations on working hours, daily and weekly rest, or annual leave.
The Federation Market Inspectorate, the RS Inspectorate, and the Brcko District Inspectorate are responsible for enforcement of labor laws in the formal economy. There were 110 market inspectors in the Federation, 61 in the RS, and 11 in the Brcko District. Authorities in the two entities and the Brcko District did not adequately enforce labor regulations. Penalties for violations of the law are 1,000 to 7,000 convertible marks ($540 to $3,780) in the Federation and 5,000 to 20,000 convertible marks ($2,700 to $10,800) in the RS. The penalties for wage and safety violations were generally sufficient to deter violations.
The Federation and the RS set mandatory occupational health and safety standards, especially for those industry sectors in which there were working conditions were hazardous. Worker rights extended to all official (i.e., registered) workers, including migrant and temporary workers.
Governments in both entities made only limited efforts to improve occupational safety and health at government-owned coalmines; such efforts were inadequate for the safety and security of workers. Workers in certain industries, particularly metal and steel processing and coal mining, often worked in hazardous conditions. A collapse at the Zenica coalmine in 2014 resulted in five deaths and 29 injuries to coalmine workers. There were no official social protections for workers in the informal economy.
Workers could not remove themselves from situations that endanger their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. Authorities provided no protection to employees in this situation.