State of the Unions in Serbia

Marija Jankovic Belgrade, Nis, Pancevo, Zagreb

Bullied or bought off, trade unions in Serbia and elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia have hit rock bottom, failing the workers they claim to protect.

Milan Ivovic, former president of the Azotara trade union, outside the Azotara fertiliser factory in the Serbian town of Pancevo where he worked for 37 years. Photo: Marija Jankovic.

Milan Ivovic was 10 years old when the Serbian state fertilizer producer HIP Azotara opened its gates for the first time in 1962, over the road from his childhood home in the town of Pancevo on the eastern bank of the river Danube.

He would go on to spend his entire working life – 37 years – employed at the factory, starting on the night shift and eventually rising to become the president of its trade union in 2007.

Yet in late 2015, barely 17 months short of retirement, Ivovic found himself out of work, declared “surplus” during a very public spat with the state-appointed management.

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