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Yugoslavia: Trade Unions
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > The Economic Management Mechanism > Trade Unions


In the 1980s, membership in trade unions was officially voluntary, but most workers were members and had dues deducted directly from their pay. Trade union officials usually were LCY members and, because the self-management system had no evident division between employers and employees, officials had relatively little responsibility. Their one official function was to nominate members of workers' councils.

Before 1990, strikes, or "work stoppages" as they were euphemistically called, officially were neither legal nor illegal. The idea of a strike in a self-management system was theoretically contradictory, because technically workers would be striking against themselves. Hence, Yugoslav work stoppages took the form of political protest against the system rather than conflict between employer and employees. The reforms introduced in January 1990 officially declared the workers' right to strike.

Strikes were relatively rare until the late 1970s, when soaring inflation and falling personal incomes generated widespread discontent. In 1987, 1988, and 1989, governmentimposed income freezes set off waves of major strikes, each lasting several weeks. In the first nine months of 1987 alone, 1,000 strikes were called, involving over 150,000 workers. The 1989 strikes involved over 900,000 workers. Demands almost always included higher pay and often the replacement of management as well.

Traditionally trade union officials opposed strikes; but in the late 1980s they modified this stand. In 1985 some union leaders broke tradition by suggesting that when workers' demands were justified and no other solution existed, the trade union should take the lead in organizing a strike. As of early 1990, no union had taken such action, however, and many union officials remained on record as opposing strikes.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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