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news 22 Oct 14

Unrest Returns to Birthplace of Bosnia Protests

Protesting workers in Tuzla are calling for the resignation of the cantonal government that was appointed after the February protests.

Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo

 

Around 200 workers from some of the notoriously badly privatized companies in Tuzla - the place where the 2014 protests in Bosnia began - gathered in front of the cantonal government on Wednesday to demand the resignation of the so-called "experts" government of the canton under Bahrija Umihanic.

Umihanic was named prime minister of Tuzla Canton after its government resigned in February under pressure from street protests against corruption and a dire economic situation.

Redundant workers from several companies had protested for months before the protests in February escalated dramatically, attracting thousands of other angry citizens and spreading from Tuzla to Zenica, Sarajevo, Mostar and dozens of other towns.

“Seven months was enough time to do something for Konjuh and Dita,” the head of the Solidarnost union, Sakib Kopic, said referring to two of the troubled companies.

“For seven months they have lied to the workers of both companies and it is time that they paid the price," he added.

"Our message to the future authorities is that anyone who forms the government in Tuzla Canton will be given 100 days, and if they don't do anything in that period they will be dismissed,” he continued.

The main street in Tuzla was blocked on Wednesday by the protesters demanding the resignation of the government of non-party leaders.

Protests escalated in Tuzla on February 5 when hundreds and then thousands of people joined former workers of several local companies at a rally before the cantonal headquarters, demanding the annulment of privatization deals and the prosecution of public officials and former managers held responsible for the collapse of their former companies.

Following the 1992-95 war, many companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina were privatized, which was presented at the time as the only chance of recovery for the firms.

Many of these companies never recovered but instead closed, leaving thousands jobless and with unpaid salaries, pensions and health contributions.

Although no data exist on how many jobs were lost in Bosnia through mishandled privatizations, the total number of unemployed the country in August 2014 was more than 552,000.

Many former state-owned companies were bought not because of their potential for production but for their real estate assets. The new owners were often only interested in the land and buildings owned by the companies.

 

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