• 2014-10-14
  • |  Belgrade

Minutes from the meeting of the Working group 17 of the National Convention on the EU

Belgrade, October 14, 2014

The meeting was attended by the following: Bojana Bjelović Bosanac (the Alliance of Independent Unions of Serbia), Marko Vučenović (Institute of Industrial Relations), Nada Novaković (Institute of Social Sciences), Nikolina Milić (Belgrade Centre for Human Rights), Ljubiša Čkovrić (Centre for Human Rights from Čačak), Marijana Luković and Kristina Vujić (Praxis), Ivana Lazarević, Dina Rakin and Nataša Dragojlović (European Movement in Serbia), Aleksandra Petrović (Centre for Dignified Work), Ana Dešić (Partners for Democratic Change), Jasna Tesla (Independent Union of Bank Employees), Bojana Ružić, Nataša Nikolić, Nataša Vučković and Tijana Kljajević (Centre for Democracy Foundation). 

According to the conclusions presented in the Serbia 2014 Progress Report issued by the European Commission, limited progress was achieved in the area of social policy and employment. For this reason, various representatives of interested organisations have gathered together to deliberate on these findings and to determine possible follow up activities. 

At their very first meeting which was held in June this year, members of the Working Group expressed strong disappointment that the Labour Act was amended under urgent procedure and without public debate. The Serbia 2014 Progress Report of the European Commission has mostly confirmed the points raised by the Working Group. 

Representatives of the Alliance of Independent Unions of Serbia particularly draw attention to the fact that the latest restrictive amendments of the Labour Act practically envisage the removal of collective agreements in industry, which consequently calls for the amendments of certain provisions of the Labour Act.   Announced enactment of the Law on the Unions is not one of the requirements set out by the European Union and it is not common in generally accepted practice. The Serbian Unions hold the view that this type of law would hamper the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association and of the right to organise. Having in mind that it is not clear in which direction the announced amendments to the Law on Strike will go, the Association of Independent Unions of Serbia believes that the social dialogue and unions are put in a tight spot. 

The participants also discussed the initiative introduced by the Ministry on Labour, Employment, War Veterans and Social Issues regarding the so-called Code of Professional Ethical Practice. Accurate and precise information on the legislation in question, planned adoption calendar and the exact composition of the Working Group tasked with the preparation of this set of laws is urgently required. Institute for Industrial Relations has raised serious concerns and is particularly worried about the fact that social partners were not informed about those issues. 

Marko Vučenović raised the topic of the representativeness of the Employers’ Associations and the model which will be used to organise the Professional Chambers system. It is necessary to determine what the position of the Union of Employers of Serbia is, regarding this issue. 

It was agreed that there is a need to strengthen the role of the Agency for Peaceful Settlement of Labour Disputes, and Ana Dešić, from the Partners for Democratic Change organisation added that other instruments used in resolving disputes also need to be considered in this light. 

Sastanak Radne grupe 17 Nacionalnog konventa o EU

Aleksandra Petrović, from the Centre for Dignified Work said that the anti-discriminatory EU Council Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC which have established a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation of all persons irrespective of their racial or ethnic origin, need to be adopted.  In this light, it is necessary to adopt a definition, which will as clearly as possible, define racial, national and ethnic origin, and to implement it by enacting special laws which would regulate these concrete fields. 

The reported inadequate improvement regarding Roma inclusion should be seriously taken into consideration. The European Union will continue to support improvements in this area, especially when it comes to access to personal documents, healthcare, adequate housing, employment and education. 

As it was stated in the Progress Report, the Roma need to have access to social services and employment. Aleksandra Petrović said that particular attention should be devoted to the prevention of obvious discrimination in the recruitment process and in the workplace, especially if we take note of the fact that the current practises do not conform with ratified international documents. 

Representatives from the Praxis mentioned that this issue is closely related to Chapter 23 and minority rights, and that it should be addressed in that context as well and underlined the importance of measures envisaged by the Action Plan for Chapter 23. 

The capacities of institutions in charge of social protection need to be strengthened especially at the local level, and the cross-cutting cooperation and communication between those institutions need to be improved. People employed in social work centres  spend most of their time on administrative tasks and have too many discretional rights in the decision making process (e.g. they are in charge of determining the amount of missed earnings when deciding on one-time financial assistance) and the services they provide are not always in line with the real needs of vulnerable groups. 

With the long-awaited new Law on Free Legal Aid, social work centres will be authorised to decide which applications for free legal aid are processed, even though these institutions do not have, neither the resources nor the necessary knowledge of issues other than those pertaining to social protection, and in some cases a direct conflict of interest may occur, Praxis representatives warn. 

Regarding social protection, the Centre for Dignified Work believes that, on the basis of their previous relevant experience and programmes, it is necessary to develop an evaluation system in order to assess results achieved by employees when working with clients and to organise regularly-scheduled training on educational awareness raising and motivational workshops. 

The capacities of institutions in charge of social protection need to be strengthened especially at the local level, and the cross-cutting cooperation and communication between those institutions need to be improved. 

The participants discussed the issues of dismissal of pregnant and postpartum women, sexual harassment and inequality of women when professional promotion and a pay raise is concerned. Additionally, they raised serious concerns about the gender equality situation in the country and the role played by state institutions, having in mind that the Government Agency for Gender Equality has ceased to operateand that newly established bodies in the relevant ministry are quite inactive.  Nikolina Milić from the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights particularly emphasised the seriousness of this problem.