Hundreds of miners protested in Sarajevo after months of unpaid work

Hundreds of miners protested in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo demanding compensation for months of unpaid work and met with government representatives, AFP reported.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) remains heavily dependent on its 11 large coal mines for its energy needs, even as the country comes under pressure to seek cleaner energy sources as it battles for EU membership.
The sector has long been plagued by mismanagement, non-payment of pensions and poor environmental performance.
Adding to the problems are claims by more than 600 workers at Bosnia's Zenica coal mine that they have not been paid since December and have called on the authorities to take action.
"We haven't received a single salary this year. I think someone should ask themselves how we live, what we live on. We have families. It's a shame," said 51-year-old miner Almir Mandzuka.
At a news conference after the rally, Vedran Lakic, the mining minister in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said officials hoped to reach a decision by next week to pay the miners' wages.
Union leaders have warned of further action if their demands are not met.
"If that doesn't happen for some reason, the miners' union will prepare its response," said Sinan Husic, who heads the Independent Miners' Union.
The protest comes at a time when the Zenica mine is undergoing financial restructuring, raising fears that the facility will close in the near future after around 200 workers are laid off.
About two-thirds of the electricity produced in BiH is generated by a few mostly outdated, state-run coal-fired power plants built during the communist era.
About 17,000 people work in Bosnia's 11 coal mines and five thermal power plants, as well as thousands of other jobs in related industries.
With a view to EU membership, BiH has made a commitment to switch its economy to renewable energy sources by 2050.
Bosnian miners also find it difficult to continue working and retire because their employers have not contributed to their pensions for years.
Earlier this month, EU leaders agreed to start talks with BiH about joining the bloc, although talks will only begin in earnest after the Balkan country adopts more key reforms./BGNES