Remembering the Golden Age of one Class: What it was like to be a Worker in Yugoslavia, and what it is like today


International Labor Day is a day when most citizens forget about their problems, but it is also an opportunity for drawing a parallel about what it was like to be a worker in the time of Yugoslavia, and what it is like today.

The general lack of money, the anxiety about whether you will have a salary on time next month or possibly receive an extension of a fixed-term employment contract, is the established matrix according to which the majority of the working class in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) lives. This is the opposite image from the one that was present during the former Yugoslavia when the worker deserved much more respect.

The worker used to be extremely appreciated

Sakib Kopic, the citizen of Tuzla, was employed by the company Polihem in the former Yugoslavia, and he considers that time golden for the working class. While drawing a comparison between “that” and “this” system, he points out that the worker was highly appreciated before, he could live on his salary, secure a vacation or afford to celebrate a holiday in another country, while today in most cases, it is only possible to be done by politicians, for who he says live best in BiH.

“In the system of Yugoslavia, the worker was protected in the right way and I don’t think he will have such a position in any other system. We had a joint labor court, so the worker could not lose any dispute. Nowadays we have a situation where the boss can fire you if you tell him something that he doesn’t like or you are not able to extend the working hours that day. Then there is a court process in which most workers lose because judges are bribed, and the judicial system is under political influence,” Kopic noted.

Today, Kopic is the president of the Solidarity Union of Tuzla Canton (TC), and in that role, he states that now is not the time to celebrate, but to protest, considering that workers have almost no rights. As he stresses, it’s all up to the policy that shaped the laws on labor and pension and disability insurance in its own way.

“As far as they are concerned, you will not have a pension of 380 BAM for the entire working life with the minimum wage to which you are registered. That does not suit the worker, but it certainly works for politicians who still live best in BiH, with incomes of five or six thousand BAM. Unfortunately, politics is the most profitable occupation in this country, and if you have that profession, you have to deceive the people and it is not an issue for them, which we see in practice, ” Kopic added.

This trade unionist is most disappointed by the fact that the workers are not fighting for their rights, emphasizing that he understands them to a certain extent because of the politicians that instilled fear.

“In today’s BiH, you have the police and the judiciary that took the side of politics. You saw what happened to demobilized fighters during the demonstrations in Sarajevo in 2018, who were also former workers. The police went to them with dogs, while they were just looking for their rights. It’s scary, ” told Kopic.

The amazing time of Yugoslavia is also remembered by the Tuzla miners, who have no reason to celebrate May Day. Due to violated workers’ rights and uncertainty about the survival of jobs, they are spending Saturday protesting in Sarajevo.

“The essential difference is that in the time of Yugoslavia, a miner was valued by the state, citizens, and everyone else, given that we know that this is by far the most difficult job. Miner’s greeting: ‘good luck’ shows how difficult this job is and no matter what protection measures are implemented, and how humanized are the working conditions, you are endangered because in the pit facilities you fight with nature, you touch it and challenge it “, as Zuhdija Tokic, president of the Trade Union of the Kreka Coal Mine, said.

Nowadays, according to Tokic, miners are unfortunately left to themselves.

“They are only talked about on Miners’ Day or when, God forbid, an accident happens. During a pandemic, we cannot apply not even some of the measures envisaged by the crisis staff, which means that our health at work is endangered. In all these conditions we do the work and make results, and in return, we get that our destiny and the lives of our families are questionable because of our existence. We did not fight for a state like this that has an ignorant attitude towards us. That saddens us,” Tokic pointed out, writes.


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