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NEWS ROUNDUP 6 Feb 2018

Let them buy steel mills

Lidija Pisker recommended by Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Southern Europe

Željezara Zenica, one of ex Yugoslav's steel industry giants, is bankrupt, leaving its workers without jobs or the right to retire. But, as PM of Federation of B&H Fadil Novalić told media, they can go ahead and buy the factory, if they like.

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Why this story matters:

For those who are familiar with the long history of the PM's regrettable statements, this one might not come as a surprise. He is well known for putting his foot in his mouth.

As awful as it seems, however, followers of B&H public life know that he may be right. In the same way that it is better for "Parent house" -- a residence building for children cancer patients and their families in Sarajevo -- not to receive continuous funding from the government but to raise money itself. Parent House administrators know they will fare better through their own efforts. 

It is just as likely, therefore, that the workers of Željezara Zenica left without a penny in their pockets will become new owners of their devastated employer. Certainly more likely than getting a support from the government. 

Or if not a support, at least some respect for how they might feel. 

Job cuts and disrespect of workers’ rights to information and participation in plans on restructuring of their companies is not unique to Bosnia. Last autumn, Europe's largest steel mill Ilva di Taranto announced it might fire around 4,000 workers.

But while Minister for Territorial Cohesion and the South, Claudio De Vincenti tried to comfort Italian workers by implying that they could stay on in an 'extraordinary' capacity, Bosnian PM Novalić mocked Željezara Zenica employees. 

politics, work

Details from the story:

  • Željezara Zenica was a major supplier of steel to all of Yugoslavia until the 1992-95 war. 
  • After the war, the mill became isolated from suppliers and customers and slowly started collapsing. 
  • Arcelor Mittal, the world's largest steel producer, bought a large part of Željezara Zenica promising to boost economy and employment. The promises, however, remained unfulfilled. 
  • The remaining public-owned part of the company is brought to ruin by inadequate management and the lack of political and economic interest to keep it alive by post-war governments.  
  • Many workers claim unpaid benefits prevent them from retiring. Some of them haven't received salaries for months. 
  • Since 2015, when he was appointed prime minister of Federation BiH, Fadil Novalić has been repeatedly ridiculed by the public for his public statements. 

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