More than 100 Indian bricklayers involved in various construction projects in Serbia have been living and working in extremely difficult conditions for months.
Some of them went on strike in mid-January, demanding payment of outstanding salaries and to return home. Although these workers were hired illegally, their problem was not addressed by the labour inspection because their employer is officially registered in Florida.
From the construction site of Corridor 11 and the Čortanovci viaduct to Nikola Tesla airport; of the 45 Indian construction workers, who are extremely dissatisfied about the violation of their rights, 25 returned home without pay, while the remaining 20 continued to work, hoping to be paid.
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Astra, an NGO fighting against human trafficking, claims that this is the exploitation of workers:
“The employer, the Nikolic construction company, has deceived the workers. They recruited them in India, transported them to Serbia, where they worked and lived in extremely difficult conditions, their wages were not paid and most importantly, they could not voluntarily leave their job for a number of reasons; first, their passports were confiscated, second, they were intimidated and threatened by the police because of their unregulated status in Serbia, and third, for financial reasons,” said Srna Ignjatovic from Astra.
The Labour Inspectorate was informed, however, the inspectors did not deal with the problem of unpaid wages and their job contracts because the Indians had been formally recruited by an employer which seat is the United States of America, although all workers in Serbia should be equal in front of the law.
The president of the Independent Union of Manufacturers considers this to be dangerous, because that sends the message that anyone can open a company in another country and exploit the workers.
Trade unions and activists also find it interesting that Nina Nikolic, co-owner of the Nikolic Company from Kraljevo, is, at the same time, the legal representative of an American company that sent workers to Serbia. She denies that she has to pay two and a half salaries to the Indians and notes that only the November payment was late and that only a minority of workers is on strike.
This post is also available in: Italiano