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Yugoslavia: Trade Unions
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Nongovernmental Political Institutions > Trade Unions


The Confederation of Trade Unions of Yugoslavia also was a party-dominated mass organization. It had the constitutional mandate of protecting the rights of workers and preserving the self-management system. It also oversaw selection of delegates to the Federal Assembly from economic enterprises and delegates to the management bodies of those enterprises. The structure of the confederation was the same as that of the party and SAWPY, but the ruling body, the Council of the Confederation, did not allot positions according to ethnic or regional quotas. Seats on the presidium of the council were held by the national heads of the Yugoslav trade unions and the presidents of regional trade union councils. Party influence in the trade unions remained very strong through the 1980s; virtually all officials were party members, and worker membership in the unions, although voluntary, was considered automatic in many enterprises.

In the Yugoslav self-managed enterprise system, there was no true adversary function for unions or their officials, because there was no true distinction between employers and employees. Agreements were made between worker groups within and among enterprises, cutting across union organizational boundaries. The function of the unions was to preserve party influence by selecting the members of the workers' councils, to ensure that the enterprise was run according to the self-management laws, and to protect the working environment. Until 1987 union officials also were expected to suppress "work stoppages," but they offered little resistance to the increasing number of strikes between 1987 and 1990.

According to a 1986 national poll, 71 percent of workers identified themselves as either members or officers of a trade union, while 25 percent denied membership. These figures varied considerably from official membership statistics, which claimed a 97 percent enrollment. Other poll results showed a lack of broad, active support of the unions, even among members; the majority of workers polled did not believe that the trade union system was a useful institution in representing their interests, and a small percentage of members took an active role in the organization. Nevertheless, the presence of a genuine trade union structure controlled at the enterprise level was a significant departure from the enterprise politics of the "conventional" communist states.

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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