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IER Nezavisnost of Serbia fight back at Kronospan

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9 August, 2012IndustriALL’s Serbian affiliate IER Nezavisnost gets support of the global union in its struggle against union-busting at Austria-based manufacturer Kronospan.

IER Nezavisnost has been met with management animosity since first organizing workers at the Kronospan factory in Lapovo, central Serbia, in April 2010. The plant’s management has made a range of attempts aimed at reducing the trade union’s influence, and even trying to kick out the union all together. Ten union members were dismissed on 29 June in a move to weaken the union.

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina wrote a letter to Kronospan protesting unhealthy working conditions, low wages of union members, long working hours, non-payment for sick leave and overtime, pressure and humiliation of union members, and ultimately the dismissals of union members.

While Kronospan Serbia’s management claims that the dismissals were made for economic and business reasons, IndustriALL escalates the campaign as the factory is boosting production by increasing working hours to 12-hour shifts, and attempting to fulfil a so-called ambitious business plan. The ten dismissed workers were all trade union members, and worked in production. The mass-sacking makes a significant cut to the union and sends a clear signal to remaining members that they risk their employment by staying in the union.

Kronospan’s attempt to get trade unionists to close the union and work directly with management within the Works Council is documented. Management’s failure to establish the representativity of the trade union, as legally obliged under Serbia’s labour law is an important violation. Management’s failure to provide an office and equipment for union meetings and activities showed another violation. A recent labour inspection found many malpractices at the factory, and that documentation will be part of the legal proceedings which will likely rule in favour of the workers.

IndustriALL Global Union urges Kronospan management to stop this policy and mistreatment of its employees, and stands by its affiliate as they prepare legal proceedings and other methods of resistance. However the campaign continues so that management avoids those further steps by reinstating the 10 sacked workers and beginning meaningful social bargaining with IER Nezavisnost in Lapovo.