BIRN: Chinese companies abusing foreign workers

The BIRN investigative website reported on Wednesday that a Chinese company was exploiting workers it brought into Serbia.

According to BIRN, China Energy Engineering Group Tianjin Electric Power Construction (CEEG TEPC) brought foreign workers to Serbia, having given them illegal and abusive contracts, not properly registering them with the authorities and sourcing them out to other companies.

The website also said that the company owes almost EUR 5 million to various creditors, adding that its bank accounts have been frozen after 25 Serbian companies sued it.

CEEG TEPC has been operating in Serbia since 2018 and has been engaged on what the authorities view as projects of national importance, such as the construction of the LingLong tire factory in Zrenjanin.

CEEG TEPC was accused of exploiting Vietnamese nationals in 2021, as well as Indian nationals this year. Both those groups of workers said they were living in squalid conditions with little food and no medical support, that their passports were taken from them and that the company owed them substantial back pay. Some of the Indian workers were paid and sent home.

BIRN also claims that some of the Vietnamese workers did not have valid work permits.

“I think all this shows that certain investors or employers are favoured, that state authorities did not do their job properly and that breaking the law led to the mass exploitation of workers with many elements that indicate that they are victims of human trafficking”, Mario Reljanović, research associate at the Institute for Labour Law, tells BIRN.

Tomoya Obokata, the United Nations special rapporteur on modern forms of slavery, tells BIRN that neither CEEG TEPC nor the Serbian government have responded to the letter that he and three other UN special rapporteurs sent in January 2022, regarding the abuse of the Vietnamese workers.

Obokata also points out that it is precisely the large commissions of recruitment agencies that are often the cause of the debt slavery of migrant workers.

“They’re basically not making money, they’re paying off debt. Workers should not have to pay for the agency fee; employers are the ones who should pay for it, and state governments should monitor how this is implemented,” he told BIRN.

(BIRN, 13.03.2024)

https://birn.rs/kineski-gradjevinac-optuzbe-za-eksploataciju-i-trgovinu-ljudima-uz-dugove-srpskim-firmama/

This post is also available in: Italiano

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