Bosnian coal miners halt work, protest against lower wages

SARAJEVO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Thousands of miners halted work at Bosnia's seven coal mines on Tuesday in support of colleagues protesting in Sarajevo against what they said were government violations of work and pay regulations.

The seven coal mines are owned by the state-owned Elektroprivreda BiH (EPBiH) power utility, and employ about 7,200 workers.

The government of Bosnia's autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation, which owns the EPBiH, plans to restructure indebted coal mines as part of its plan to switch gradually from coal to renewable energy sources, and cut the number of employees to 5,200. read more

The restructuring plan, including the retirement of 419 miners this year, was agreed by both sides in May.

But now the EPBiH has imposed new working regulations that violate the collective bargaining agreement, slashing the miners' basic wage to 570 Bosnian marka (291 euro) from 850 marka, Sinan Husic, the president of the Federation miners' union, told Reuters.

Nobody from the government or EPBiH was immediately available for comment.

Several thousand miners, who were bussed to Sarajevo from across Bosnia, blew whistles, waved flags and shouted "thieves, thieves".

The union representatives refused to talk to the government and EPBiH officials but insisted they should come out and address the protesters.

But when Federation Industry and Energy Minister Nermin Dzindic tried to talk to the protesters, surrounded by special police, he was booed and quickly left.

"A key reason is that they want to reduce our basic salary, to pay us according to the output, which is unrealistic," said Admir Fejzic, a miner from the largest Kreka coal mine in northern Bosnia.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Alex Richardson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.