In the days to come, the army of private-sector employees is expecting mass layoffs with many of them already being laid off.
The only thing that the state authorities can do, at the moment, is to urge companies not to fire their employees particularly those working in small and medium-sized enterprises.
Companies have stopped working and there is no plan B or measures in sight to rectify the situation. Of course, workers are the most affected.
“A friend called me today, she’s a cook in a famous restaurant; she says they were called to a meeting and they fired everyone…” one woman reports.
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The other, a small business owner, will have to close her hair salon. She says: “I have a five-year-old boy, my husband is currently unemployed. I am forced not to work while the cost of rent, taxes and other things is rising,” she says.
“My husband and I work in the same restaurant which closed on March 18th. We have three children. Where do we get the money for food?” says another woman.
“Why are mothers in the private sector not allowed to work from home?” asks a woman whose maternity leave expires in few days, and adds: “My child has no place to go and the company I work for did organize transport for its workers that leaves from the Belgrade centre. But I cannot get to the town centre in the current conditions.”
“I have a six-year-old boy. I lost my job because my boss closed the facility where I worked. I have no other income and I live in a rented apartment. Everyone talks about increasing pensions and various other measures, but no-one says what we are going to do, i.e. parents who pay rent and can’t find another job”, a mother says.
“It doesn’t matter if I die of the coronavirus or starvation”
A seasonal worker at a hospitality facility at Srebrno Jezero (Silver Lake) says he has been sent on a paid leave but is worried about his income in April and May. “I don’t have the opportunity to work even for a minimum wage and I have no other income. Either someone will give me an opportunity to work or I’ll die. It’s irrelevant how I will day – from the coronavirus or hunger,” he says.
Another woman, who is a hopeless situation, was not allowed to work from home, although that was a realistic possibility. She is a mother of two children, aged 9 and 13, her husband is in quarantine in France and she takes care of her and his sick parents.
There is no solution to this problem at the moment and no special measures have been implemented to help workers.
Professor Zoran Stoiljkovic, president of the association of trade unions, Nezavisnost, says that nobody seems to think about small businesses, even though the state could provide compensation or exempt them from paying certain financial obligations.
“We will specifically examine the problems regarding the termination of job contracts and ask the state to resolve the issues that are causing chaos. We have proposed a moratorium on workers’ rights and wages during the state of emergency and I think that the government has heeded our message. The problem is that the public sectors workers will be protected even if the government does not accept our appeal, unlike the private sector workers. There is a horrible example of Vojvodjanska Banka who fired 102 people and has not adhered to the redundancy period as stipulated in the relevant law. Now, that the National Employment Service is closed, these people cannot even exercise their redundancy rights,” Stojiljkovic adds.
This post is also available in: Italiano