Most of the workers in Serbia work two to three hours overtime every day, and most of them are not paid for this work – trade unions claim. It is mostly employees in privately owned companies that work overtime, but there are more and more cases of civil servants working longer hours too.
The common denominator for both is that they are not paid for their overtime and, in most cases, they don’t even ask to be paid, fearing employer’s revenge and loss of job.
“It is a great misconception that people in Serbia don’t work a lot. On the contrary. However, it is absolutely appalling to see that they are paid less for their overtime. On average, Serbian employees work between one and three hours more than stipulated in their employment contracts, with some employers threatening to fire them if they refuse. Eager to keep their jobs, employees agree to work longer hours without extra pay because the new Labour Law has enabled employers to fire workers easier than before”, Ranka Savic, the President of the Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions (ASNS) says.
The workers in hospitality industry, construction, metal processing, retail and supermarket chains, tourism and road companies work the longest hours. Savic cites an example of people working in the hospitality industry. For instance, an employee of a coffee shop or a restaurant is requested to come an hour earlier to work to prepare the facility before it opens, and then they are required to stay after the facility closes to clean it. The ASNS has even received complaints from some ministries, where civil servants are ordered to stay at work “as long as the minister is in the office”.
“There is a big problem with our state promoting our labour as “affordable” or “cheap”. This is kind of an attitude both state and private employers take on too”, Savic explains.
The law stipulates that an employee can work up to 8 hours overtime a week, or 416 hours annually. The law also says that an hour of overtime is paid 26% more. The same goes for working nights, while, for working on public holidays, workers should be paid 110% more.
If an employer demands from an employee to work more than eight hours overtime a week, the law stipulates fines for the employer ranging from 600,000 Dinars to 1.5 million Dinars for privately owned companies, and between 200,000 and 400,000 Dinars for small business owners.
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