May 1, the international workers’ day, is a non-working day in Bosnia and a holiday traditionally celebrated with grilled meat and beverages somewhere outdoors. However, soaring unemployment and poor state of workers’ rights make May 1 increasingly less of an occasion to celebrate and more of a day for protests.
In Zenica, the city’s brass band climbed a truck Monday morning and drove around the city playing traditional May 1 tunes.
“Music is my tradition and my life. My brothers and uncles played in brass band; I wanted too, but because of the circumstances I couldn’t,” said a restaurant owner in Zenica who bought breakfast for the band.
In Republika Srpska entity, workers planned a “protest walk” for May 1 to express dissatisfaction with how employers treat them. They say they are deprived of the rights they should have according to the law because the authorities are too weak to implement them and punish companies that violate their rights.
Meanwhile, unions in the Federation entity are also angry at their government because of an array of issues, including new laws forcing employers to pay more taxes on employees’ salaries; workers fear the employers will simply cut their salaries to make up for the difference.
In Mostar, the local Croat marching band started playing at 6 am. Miro Šimunović, the band head, said they extended the repertoire this May 1 with numbers from different countries.
“Citizens always respond, they record with cell phones, they look from the balconies. If the reaction of the citizens was not good (in the Bosniak part of the city), I do not know how we would feel playing; on the contrary, we feel welcome every year ,” said Šimunović.