Feature 09 May 16

Serbian Workers Struggling with ‘Widespread’ Poor Conditions

Government pandering to investors, inadequate labour legislation and a slow-moving judiciary are some of the reasons for widespread violations of workplace rights in Serbia, trade unions believe.

Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Belgrade
Workers protesting for unpaid wages last week in Nis in central Serbia. Photo: Beta.

Beating workers with metal sticks if they bend over while working, ordering them to wear nappies so they don’t waste time going to the toilet, asking them to do unpaid extra hours or work on public holidays, and firing them for arguing – these are just some of the complaints that employees of Yura, a South Korean company based in the town of Leskovac, raised in a series of articles published by Serbian newspaper Danas.

Yura has declined to comment on the alleged violations of workplace rights.

But although the allegations are extreme examples, the Danas articles about the South Korean firm, published over the past fortnight, have highlighted the poor conditions in which some Serbian employees have to work.

Zeljko Veselinovic, the president of the association of Serbian trade unions, Sloga, told BIRN that unfair labour legislation and slow-moving employment tribunals are the key reasons why Serbian workers cannot get protection from bullying tactics by management.

“The labour legislation is very flexible and allows employers to fire people easily. Serbia has one of the worst labour laws in Europe. Also, the judiciary is extremely slow… labour disputes go on for several years which prevents people from even starting to fight for their rights,” Veselinovic said.

He added that workers are afraid to join unions since they cannot afford to lose their jobs. Therefore, in the private sector, unions are a rarity.

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