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Magda Hassan
06-30-2009, 11:40 AM
Bosnia Faces Collapse as General Strike Looms

Sarajevo | 25 June 2009 | Srecko Latal

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Last week's war veterans protests In Sarajevo

Bosnia's Federation entity is facing a total collapse as industry, education, health, postal, communal and other administrative workers prepare the country's biggest-ever strike over government plans for interventionist budget cuts. “We will probably not be mistaken if we say that the entire Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in collapse,” Bosnia’s Pincom web portal reported on Thursday.
This is the first time that almost all syndicates and trade unions across the Bosniak- (Bosnian Muslim) and Bosnian Croat-dominated Federation entity have managed a consensus and coordinated a joint general strike. The strike is set to start on Friday, and all workers employed in public services and administration will be halting their work for two hours between 10:00 am and noon each day for the next two weeks.
After this period, if there is no appropriate response from or agreement with the Federation government, syndicates and trade unions will meet to agree over their next moves, union leaders told media.
The strike will include almost all employees who receive salaries from the Federation or cantonal budgets. It will include education and health workers and those employed in communication and communal services. Even the police will join the fray and either halt patrols or remain in the barracks each day during the two-hour strike, police union representatives said.
They are protesting against a protectionist law put into urgent parliamentary procedure last week. The law aims to cut public expenditures, including salaries and social benefits. Budget cuts are necessary if Bosnia is to get an agreed 1.2 billion euro stand-by arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, IMF.
This arrangement, which Bosnia negotiated (http://balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/18667) with IMF in May, already suffered a serious blow earlier this week after the IMF refused to change the agreed conditions and allow the Federation to renege on its commitment to reduce benefits for influential war veterans and invalids. The IMF says that the deal is being put on hold (http://balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/20435) until Bosnia and all of its administrative levels fulfill their obligations and implement the agreed reforms.
According to the agreement, all administrative levels in Bosnia are to undergo drastic cuts by the end of the month. Of the country's two entities, the Federation is required to make the largest spending cuts, around 207 million euros, which is some 10 per cent of its entity, cantonal and municipal budgets. The Bosnian Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska will have to reduce spending by 73 million euros. The budgets of the state government and the separate administrative District of Brcko are to be reduced by 20 million euros and 5 million euros, respectively.
Republika Srpska, which is in better financial shape, is said to have already fulfilled its part of the obligation, while the Federation and the state are facing serious difficulties.
Trade unions and syndicates, along with war veterans’ associations, have said that with the law and other planned measures, the Federation government is trying to impose non-democratic solutions that have not been discussed with or agreed to by the public.
They have also complained that executive and legislative bodies in the Federation, which have over the past few years multiplied their salaries several times over, represent one of the single biggest expenses in the consolidated budgets, yet have envisaged only 10 per cent cuts.
Like the intense demonstrations (http://balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/20318) by war veterans and invalids in Sarajevo last week, the upcoming general strike places Federation officials in an almost impossible situation. Such strong public reactions to announced budget cuts are effectively halting this process, but if the situation endangers the IMF deal, the Federation will face almost certain financial collapse (http://balkaninsight.com/en/main/analysis/18711) before the end of the year, experts say.
http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/20507/