Bosnian Workers Who Started February Demonstrations Are Leaving the Country on Foot


Workers of Tuzla companies “Aida”, “Dita”,“Livnice” and “Konjuh”, which started the massive February protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are on the third day of their journey en route to the border city of Orašje, where they hope to cross the border and enter Croatia and the European Union in hopes of gaining asylum there.

Protests in February took down the government of Tuzla Canton and an “expert” government has been in charge since then, but not even they could solve the problems of these workers who haven’t been called for work in months. Even though workers have accrued years worth of retirement funds,  their companies didn’t have the money to pay it.

The companies that the workers were employed at for years deducted workers pay for retirement, healthcare and social security yet neglected to turn the money over to the state so the workers are now unable to collect the benefits that they worked for.

Since they have now lost all hope of the government ever solving their problems, around 300 of them have left Tuzla on foot without enough money to travel by bus, with hope of gaining asylum in the European Union where they can live off of their work.

Road from Tuzla to Orašje, 81.6 kilometers – 50 miles by road)

Road from Tuzla to Orašje, 81.6 kilometers – 50 miles by road)

Most of them left Tuzla with food enough only for one meal, but residents of villages and towns which they passed through offered them food and drink, while the Red Cross has managed to arrange for them a place to sleep in the last two nights and its volunteers have taken care of workers health.

After three whole days of marching, they are exhausted, but around 200 of them have arrived in the border city and will try to cross to Croatia tomorrow. However, most of them, probably, won’t be allowed to cross since they don’t have passports or 50 Euros, which are required to enter Croatia as a tourist. Even if they pass the border, gaining an asylum in any EU country will be almost impossible since endangered workers rights, by the law, isn’t a solid basis for that.

“If they don’t let us to pass the border, we will sit there and wait for someone to solve problems of our companies”, said vice president of Workers Union of “Aida” Hasan Užičanin.

Tuzla Companies have been production giants brought down by corruption 
These three Companies have been production giants and have employed thousands of workers, even in years after the war when almost no company operated. But have been destroyed due to corruption in the government and bad management.

Tuzla workers started February protests, biggest and most violent in post-war history of BiH
Workers of ruined companies from Tuzla started protests last February which have spread and ignited large part of the country resulting in several government and party buildings in Sarajevo, Tuzla and Mostar by the angry protesters, and heavy clashes with police.

Immediately, a large scale media propaganda campaign started which was effective and the number of protesters on the streets lessened by the day. Results of the protests were the resignations of a number of officials, though most of them stayed on power on a “technical mandate”.

Plenum (assembly) of citizens was created, in order to “channel” the energy of protesters, but due to media propaganda, infiltration’s by the political party members and dwindling numbers of protesters on the streets, Plenums influence diminished rapidly.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, with 44 percent of citizens looking for work, while those who have jobs, usually work for minor salaries. In contrast to the average Bosnian worker, Bosnian politicians enjoy some of the largest salaries in Europe, and parliamentarians are the best paid in Europe compared to the average salary in the country. They receive more than six times average salary.

However, their high salary doesn’t motivate them enough to reach compromise in their debates, and they are, some of the most inefficient in Europe by the number of adopted laws.

This story was originally published on Revolution-News.

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