Bosnia: DITA workers in Tuzla have occupied their factory!

The workers of the Tuzla-based detergent factory DITA in Bosnia and Herzegovina have occupied their workplace and are refusing to recognise the authority of the trustee managing the bankruptcy, unless the interests of the workers are protected, or new investment is found to reactivate the factory.

This determined and defiant act on the part of the Tuzla workers is merely the latest instance of their struggle against the criminal privatisation of the once proud industrial giant that was DITA, as well as an act of defiance directed against the ruling thugs that have been robbing the country blind for 20 years in cahoots with international capital, that has succeeded in turning an industrialized country into an insignificant peripheral economy that is now supposed to live off eco-tourism and mountain climbing!

Since 2012, the factory has been declared bankrupt, which was caused by the massive borrowing on the part of the then owners of DITA. These toxic loans which undermined the factory were supposed to go into the improving of production, instead the factory did not see a dime of that money, which by some strange act of magic has disappeared and reappeared in the pockets of those same owners, leaving the factory massively indebted. This proud enterprise once employed over a thousand workers and was the main provider of detergent for the entire Yugoslav market, now its workforce is just over one hundred and exists only because of the resolve of its workers, who have for two years now been guarding the factory around the clock in order to prevent the removal of machinery and assets by the vultures waiting to feed off its decaying carcass.

The DITA workers are just a small section of the ruined and humiliated Tuzlak workers, who have suffered a series of disastrous privatisations that have robbed them of their livelihood and dignity. The Tuzla area, or what is now known as the Tuzla Canton, which was once a powerful industrial hub, has since been turned into a wasteland with almost all of its productive capacity closed, and most of its population unemployed. The Tuzla Canton is a record holder in terms of official unemployment, with an above national average unemployment rate of 52%, and is now supposed to reinvent itself as a tourist destination, by building giant new hotels that are vacant for the better part of the year, and the ever expanding "Panonica" artificial lake complex. The economic strategy of the region is not determined by the needs of the people of Tuzla, but by the short term interests of the nationalist gangster elite and its foreign sponsors, who have been lulling the workers to sleep through nationalist demagogy for twenty years now, while these disgusting thugs destroyed and robbed what took the working class of Bosnia and Herzegovina decades to build through common effort.

The February 2014 rebellion - which started in Tuzla and spread throughout the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina marked a sharp break from that hypnosis, in which the Bosnian workers and youth rose against the ruling gangster elite and the crushing economic inequality caused by years of officially sanctioned robbery - was led by the workers of the ruined enterprises. The DITA workers stood out in particular. The proletarian character of the revolt is best expressed through the demands of the demonstrators which were clearly outlined in the 7 February Declaration by the Workers and Citizens of the Tuzla Canton. Among others, the declaration included the demand to bring to justice instances of economic crimes and all those involved in it, to confiscate illegally obtained property, and annul the privatization agreements (for these firms). This was nothing but a demand for the re-nationalization of the ruined and privatised enterprises.

Of course, the national media outlets denounced the workers’ insurrection as work of a bunch of hooligans and delinquents, showing once more its true character as a boot-licker of the ruling gangsters. The DITA workers together with the workers of other failed enterprises such as Aida, Polihem and Konjuh formed the vanguard of these protests and its most stable element. The protests themselves quickly grew out from a regular Tuzla workers’ strike demanding pay, recognition of seniority and health insurance into an all out social protest attracting youth as well. The rioting quickly dissipated after a couple of days due to its its spontaneous and unorganized nature and lack of political leadership and a clear political alternative, but it also marked a qualitative shift in the consciousness of the workers.

The DITA workers are once more resisting the onslaught of the privatising fanatics that are threatening its survival, and they are demanding again what they have been demanding for years: pay, recognition of seniority and health insurance. Instead they are not even guaranteed employment at their workplace. Make no mistake about it, the horrible state of the Tuzla working class is not a result of a criminal and failed privatisation process which could be resolved through a simple and more successful privatisation process. It is the result of the inherent nature of the privatisation process itself.

What a successful privatisation process would look like is best illustrated by the example of the privatisation of Fabrika soda Lukavac d.o.o, the producer of soda, which was taken over by the Turkish glass producing monopoly of Şişecam A.Ş. Just after the takeover the workforce of the factory was massively cut to size, from the pre-privatisation size of about fifteen hundred workers to five hundred, while productivity has trebled, imposing a massive workload on the workforce who are treated like mules, and the health problems caused by such slave labour are immense. The entire country has been stooped in misery, poverty and mass structural unemployment as a result of its being sold off to international capital, for peanuts, under the pretext of “privatisation of the inefficient state enterprises”.

The Marxist Organisation “Crveni” (“Reds”) and the International Marxist Tendency offer their fullest solidarity to the workers of DITA and other struggling worker militants in Tuzla, Bosnia and the rest of the privatisation-plundered Balkans.

No more privatisations! No more imperialist meddling and plundering of Bosnia!
Death to capitalism – freedom to the people!

Below we reproduce the appeal written by the DITA workers:

An Appeal to the International Labour Community from the Workers of the DITA Factory, Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina  (Tuzla, 16 April 2015)

We, the workers of Tuzla-based detergent factory DITA, have been fighting a wave of corrupt privatisations, exploitation and asset stripping that is destroying the industry of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For over two years now, we have guarded our factory around the clock to prevent the removal of machinery and assets.

The process of privatisation of DITA was carried out in collaboration with corrupt politicians, judiciary and banks, which failed to carry out due diligence, and provided toxic loans to the new owners – money that never reached the factory.

Our country is suffering from lack of rule of law: criminal elites have pushed through amendments to the criminal code that mean there is no court that can try financial and trade crimes.

This legalised theft has denied us our basic human rights: we are over 40 monthly salaries in arrears, all of which has left us hungry and destitute; we have been forced to watch our family members die because we could not afford medical treatment.

Now bankruptcy proceedings have begun. We are resolved to maintain the occupation of the factory and are refusing to recognise the authority of the trustee managing the bankruptcy unless the interests of the workers are protected, or new investment to reactivate the factory is found.

We are now at a critical point. Without outside support it may only be a matter of days before we are forced to build barricades and resist enforcement from special police forces.

We appeal urgently to the international Trade Union movement for moral and material support.

DITA factory workers
Emina Busuladžić, Head of the Strike Committee
Dževad Mehmedović, Shop Steward for the Union of Non-Metal Workers

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