Strikes in Serbia: The battle for workers’ rights

At this moment, at least 3,000 workers in Serbia are on strike, and the Serbian government, instead of mediating between the workers and employers, is now warning how much damage are these strikes are causing Serbia and claiming that, because of the strikes, some investors have decided to withdraw from Serbia.

Labour law professors say that this kind of government’s policy is completely wrong because workers have the right to demand better working conditions through strike and not be treated as cheap and disenfranchised work force.

“We are what we create”, is the slogan of Fiat’s factory in Kragujevac which is a fitting reflection of what is currently going on in the factory which workers have been on strike for 20 days now. What the strikers are creating now, instead of cars, is better working conditions.

The workers at Gorenje’s factory in Valjevo also had enough. Although, paradoxically enough, the factory produces air conditioning devices, the workers are having to work in production halls where temperatures exceed 40 degrees Celsius.

In Smederevska Palanka, the workers at Gosa’s factory have not worked for a considerable amount of time because they haven’t received a penny of their salaries. The factory produces wagons.

Ranka Savic, from the Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions, says that there is common thread in these three factories which employ almost 3,000 workers, and that is that their struggle to live off their salaries resonates much more with them than the media propaganda how investors cannot wait to come to Serbia because our country offers phenomenal conditions for doing business.

A law professor at the Union University, Mario Reljanovic says that the workers should not succumb to the quiet pressure from the Serbian president and prime minister to stop the strikes because strike is a legitimate means of fighting for their rights, guaranteed by the Serbian legislation and the Constitution.

“It seems that there is no alternative to strike, and if the workers do not persist, they will be abused even more and their basic rights will be denied, which, in turn, will result in us slowly falling down to the bottom and lowering our standards while making our workforce even cheaper and more disenfranchised”, Reljanovic explains.

Commenting on the government’s claims that investors were contemplating on leaving Serbia because of the strikes, Reljanovic says that that is simply not true. He cites the examples of Poland and Slovakia where workers’ strikes resulted in better salaries and working conditions.

(Nova Ekonomija, 16.07.2017)


This post is also available in: Italiano

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