Date: Thu, 13 Feb 97 12:32:06 CST
Independent trade union prepares for post-Milosevic era
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, ICFTU OnLine, 7 February 1997
Brussels, February 7, 1997 (ICFTU OnLine): Branislav Canak, president of Serbia's only independent trade union, Nezavisnost, called on the opposition to think ahead and prepare for the post-Milosevic era. Branislav Canak, who was in Brussels at the invitation of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), warned of unpredictable social unrest should Serbia's economic situation remain unaddressed. Opposed to the Milosevic regime and its war from the outset, Nezavisnost expressed support for the student movement and the opposition coalitions in their three-month street protests aimed at reinstating their municipal election victories.
"We are now at a turning point, but our problems will not vanish when Milosevic goes, they will start", said Canak referring to the economic situation. Eighty percent of Serbian factories are either closed or operating at only 20% capacity with workers put on "forced vacation" and living on 60% of the minimum wage or depending on the grey economy for survival, Canak explains. With uncontrolled privatisation and the lack of social protection things can only get worse and a social upheaval can't be ruled out, he warned.
Nezavisnot has agreed to support an economic recovery programme released last week and prepared by academics and economic experts. But Canak complained that the opposition groupings have yet to take a stand on it and have so far limited themselves to making vague promises of a better future. The programme, according to Canak, plans for privatisation and employment policy with social justice and is aimed at putting Serbia on the road to economic recovery. "We do not agree with each and every point of the economic programme and some of them are too neoliberal for our taste, but it is a programme on which we can build", said Canak.
"What it lacks so far is a political platform to carry it through" he added.
In Brussels, Canak had discussions with the European TUC and the ICFTU on future assistance to Serbia's independent trade union movement. A special session of the ETUC steering committee devoted to the situation in Serbia agreed to mobilise maximum support for Nezavisnost and draw the attention of the European Union to the need to support the democratisation process in Serbia and the social dimension of the economic transition. Nezavisnost is a 150,000 strong trade union and is expanding rapidly as groups continue to leave Serbia's official trade union centre which, Canak says, remains under the control of the Milosevic regime.
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