News 19 Aug 16

Serbian Unions Seek Higher Minimum Wage

The Serbian government, employers and several unions are negotiating a new minimum wage level, but the proposed rise has already been described by one independent union as an ‘insult’.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Workers protesting for unpaid wages in Nis in central Serbia. Photo: Beta.

Two years after Serbia last set a minimum wage, the government, unions and employers have begun negotiations on a rise in the basic hourly pay for workers.

“All three sides, unions, state and employers are in agreement and on August 23, we should announce the final proposal for the rise in wages. We, the employers’ association, think that a realistic rise should be six RSD per hour [four euro cents],” the director of the Serbian Association of Employers, Srdjan Drobnjakovic, told BIRN on Friday.

The minimum monthly wage in Serbia is currently set at 21,050 dinars (€174) – among the lowest in the Balkan region, and also in Europe.

As of January 2016, monthly minimum wages varied widely in the EU, from 215 euros in Bulgaria to 1.923 euros in Luxembourg.

Although most of Serbian unions considered close to the government are participating in the negotiations, the union Sloga (United), which represents thousands of workers from various sectors, has not been invited to take part.

Sloga claims that the talks on the minimum wage rise are an "insult".

“The government has already made a decision on the rise. These are not negotiations but a farce and a spectacle. This wage rise is not an economic but a political move," the head of Sloga, Zeljko Veselinovic, told BIRN.

Veselinovic said that the current monthly minimum wage was 170 euros, but he argued that it should rise to 227 euros, instead of 182 euros as suggested in the current negotiations. 

“This ‘rise’ is an insult. The minimum wage in Serbia is not adjusted to the consumer basket, according to which it should be calculated,” he said.

Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on Thursday that the government is doing its best to increase the minimum wage in Serbia.

“This is something on which all relevant groups should make a joint decision, first economic but then also political," Vulin said.

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