The Serbian public, especially residents of Obrenovac, were disturbed by the news of the death of two workers in the Obrenovac plant of the Chinese company Mei Ta in mid-October.
In addition to the obviously hazardous working conditions, this company, as the workers testify, literally exploits its employees, who usually work six night shifts in a row. Residents of Obrenovac also claim that they feel an unbearable stench coming from the factory every day because the company does not respect environmental standards.
To remind, the Serbian government gave Mei Ta 21 million euros in state subsidies and donated land for free, while the Obrenovac municipality also provided them with free communal services. The company produces automotive parts in its Obrenovac production plant.
A few weeks ago, on October 18, in the plant of the Chinese Mei Ta factory in Obrenovac, one worker (age 43) a stone broke on a machine, while his colleague (age 22) was seriously injured. He died three days later. The factory’s management said that “this kind of accident has never happened in other countries” where the company has factories and that all competent institutions are involved in the investigation of the case.
The workers continued to work as if nothing had happened and to this day there is no official information about how the machine broke down and who is responsible.
As Darko Pavličić from the Za Naš Obrenovac Association, said between 2,500 and 3,000 people work in this factory and what happened is tragic for everyone.
“According to my sources, no one has helped the families of the dead workers in the right way. Both of them had children and we are asking that they be given scholarships, at least while they are studying,” says Pavličić.
The rights of workers are jeopardized
The workers of the Chinese factory now come to work as if nothing had happened while working in extremely inhumane conditions. Pavličić says that, although employees work in “standard” eight-hour shifts, they often work six night shifts in a row. In his opinion, such a work schedule is completely inappropriate.
“Can someone function normally after working eight-hour shifts six nights in a row? These are physically demanding jobs and it is not acceptable for workers to work such consecutive shifts,” says Pavličić.
Also, workers have no one to represent them at the company as there are no organized trade unions.
“The workers say that they are exposed to pressures not to organize themselves and form a trade union,” Pavličić warns.
The secretary of the civil association Socialist Movement of Serbia from Obrenovac, Dragoslav Mršević, the working conditions in many divisions of the factory are “subhuman”, the production norm that the workers need to fulfil is too high and if the desired results are not accomplished, their wages are reduced.
“In order to meet this very demanding norm, workers enter very dangerous and risky situations and jeopardize their health and safety,” he adds.
Obrenovac’s residents also complain of strong stench coming from the factory and polluting their air. Pavličić notes that no environmental impact study has been done so far and that the metal-like stench is especially strong in summer months.
Despite promises made by the municipal president, Miroslav Čučković, Obrenovac still doesn’t have appropriate air pollution measuring stations, while the factory itself doesn’t have proper filters.
Mršević suspects that the factory releases toxic gases during the night and that nobody from municipal authorities has proposed how to rectify this problem.
This post is also available in: Italiano