Bosnian miners barricade themselves underground, threaten hunger strike

Update: Miners have ended the strike after reaching a wage hike agreement with the company on Tuesday night. 

Around 100 coal miners have barricaded themselves 250 meters underground inside a coal mine in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

The workers are refusing to leave and threatening a hunger strike if the company’s management doesn’t change, AlJazeera Balkans reports (in Bosnian).

The miners have been underground since Monday night and are calling on the company, RMU Djurdjevik, which operates under Bosnia’s biggest energy provider EPBiH, to dismiss a recently hired administrative official. The appointment, according to the miners, violates an agreement with the government whereby no administrative staff should be hired until miner wages are increased.

“The situation is becoming dramatic,” a representative of the mine’s trade union told state radio, according to Reuters.

Avaz, another BiH media outlet, is reporting that food was brought down to the striking miners but they rejected it. Avaz also writes that some workers wish to leave but are under pressure from others to stay.

Meanwhile, a company representative told AlJazeera on Tuesday that workers’ demands are expanding and the strike is illegal because it was not announced with 10 days’ notice – a meeting on August 29 had set the start date for September 11 if the RMU Djurdjevik had not revoked the appointment of the official by then.

After a meeting with the BiH government in May, the company agreed to take measures to increase production as well as wages, Serbia’s eNovine reports. 

“Brining in a new administrative official was the last drop,” Sinan Husić, the mine’s trade union president said.

On August 23 miners staged protests demanding the firm adhere to the May agreement – a deadline for which had been set to June 30 but was pushed to July 17.

BiH’s autonomous Muslim-Croat federation, majority owner of EPBiH, is set to discuss the situation on Tuesday.

The Djurdjevik mine employs more than 1,000 workers and produces about 550,000 tonnes of coal each year, according to the company website.

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