Interview with Who Takes Care of the Rights of Workers?

The rights of workers are something that is often spoken about in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dissatisfaction, unfairness and inequality in the work place raise many questions, concerns and problems that workers have the need to talk about and solve them. One way to do this is through free legal assistance or via portal The program of providing free legal assistance to workers began with the work from January 1st, 2018, in accordance with the Law on Providing Free Legal Assistance to Users, established Program, and the guidelines provided in the Strategy for workers’ education and information, analytics and providing legal assistance for the period of 2017-2018. The Legal Assistance Program is implemented in procedures as a right to legal advice, general information on the rights and obligations of workers, assistance in filling out forms, and legal assistance in the compilation of all types of submissions.

Since the existence of Free Legal Assistance Program means the opportunity for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina to solve cases which are related to work, we were interested in finding out more about the work of this Program and certain details. Below is an interview in which we have touched upon some general topics and those related to gender equality in work.

SOC: How many men and how many women are seeking help? A total of 73 requests have been received since the beginning of the Program. The number of male applicants is 34, the number of female applicants is 39, and the number of other applicants is 0. In our application forms, we have enabled users to express their gender identity as M / F / O. The age structure of the applicants is as follows: young men (9) middle age men (21), elderly men (4); women: young women (10) middle age women (24), elderly women (5); others: young (0), middle age (0), elderly (0). Legal advices were related to detailed information about ways and possibilities of resolving a particular legal issue in a specific legal matter. Examples of legal advices that were provided are: legal advice in administrative dispute, legal advice in litigation, executive and misdemeanor procedure, interpretation of legislation and application in labor law.

SOC: In your opinion and based on your previous work, is the position of women in relation to men equal in the BiH working society? In our opinion and based on previous work and research, we have come to the conclusion that with the development of society, significant progress has been made in terms of the position of women in the BiH working society. Regardless of the fact that centuries have passed since women started to fight for the right to vote and the possibility to work outside the household, we still find discrimination in all areas of labor market, in all sectors and in all professions. Regardless of the high level of education and expertise of women’s staff, they continue to be discriminated when it comes to employment, salary, further advancement and employment positions that result from certain life changes involving pregnancy and motherhood. The traditional view of women’s workforce and the perception of society about what women should do still affect gender segregation.

SOC: Have you ever had a case of discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in your previous work? In our previous work, we did not have a direct case of discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Discrimination-related complaints, which were directed to us, did not have claims that it was discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

SOC: What are the most common problems for which male workers seek help and what are the most common problems for which female workers seek help? General information on the rights and obligations of workers are concerned with questions such as: exercising rights based on a collective agreement, exercising rights based on employment contracts, exercising rights from legal and interest collective disputes, exercising rights in retirement. Examples of non-compliance with rights and obligations are: unpaid wages and contributions paid by the employer, unpaid meal allowance, non-compliance with working hours, termination of employment contract, mobbing, harassment and violence at work, security and health at work, non-compliance with the legal provisions when it comes to the organization of labor union or employee council. Assistance in filling in the forms refers to providing legal assistance in the compilation of all types of letters (requests, lawsuits, appeals, proposals, complaints, responses to complaints, etc.). These examples are expressed in approximately the same percentile amount when it comes to the problems that male workers are facing and problems that female workers are facing.

SOC: Is there a certain fear and hesitancy present among male and female workers to engage in legal processes due to workplace problems? Yes, that kind of behavior is noticeable among our users. It is justified, first of all, by mistrust in the states’ legal system, in labor unions and councils of employees. Examples in practice justify their fear and hesitancy, and they do not have relevant addresses that can directly help solve their problems. A large number of male and female workers behave in this way due to their low level of knowledge of their rights, but also because of the prejudices that large amounts of money (which the majority of them do not have) are needed to initiate legal processes, and which they believe will be wasted because of the dysfunctional and unjust legal system in the country.

SOC: Are there any particular differences in providing legal assistance to female workers in relation to male workers, and if there are, what are they? There are no particularities in providing legal assistance to female workers in relation to male workers. Every user of the Program has the right to free legal assistance regardless of his/her race, color, language, religion, ethnicity, national or social origin, connections with national minority, political or other beliefs, membership of labor union or other association, education, gender, sexual orientation, as well as any other circumstance that has the purpose or results in preventing or threatening recognition, enjoyment or exercise of the rights established by the law on equal basis. Lawyers undertake all actions and participate in all stages of the procedure until its completion. Lawyers are obliged to keep as an official secret all the information they have acquired or have been entrusted to by users, unless they are, in any capacity, exempted from this obligation on the basis of explicit or tacit approval of the user. Lawyers are obliged to inform users about undertaken actions in the procedure or case and on all other facts relevant to the course and outcome of the specific procedure.

SOC: What are the outcomes for male workers and what are the outcomes for female workers? A total of 73 requests have been received since the beginning of the Program. Number of male applicants: 34, number of female applicants: 39, number of other applicants: 0. Number of realized requests by men: 30, number of realized requests by women: 37, number of unrealized requests: 6. Unrealized requests (6) referred to claims that were considered unfounded and were not included in the description of procedures and the right to provide legal assistance (three were related to representation, two were related to property-legal relations issues and one request dealt with resolving issues related to family law).