Danka Ranković, a forty-eight-year-old woman working at Leoni’s factory in Kraljevo, died on February 25 after fainting on the factory premises on February 21.
Leoni workers claim that they work under great pressure and in rigorous conditions, while the factory management denies the workers’ claims. Back in 2019, the Kraljevo government donated 13 hectares of land to Leoni to construct a factory. The grounds had been used by agricultural students for practice. In return, the agricultural school was supposed to be given land at another location, but that never happened. At the time, Leoni also promised that it would employ 5,000 at its factory and that their wages will be above the town’s average while promising to adhere to all relevant labour and human rights.
The working conditions in the factory are quite rigorous, according to the employees. They say that they are exposed to psychological torture because as they said, there is constant tension and threats. Workers are frequently taken to see a doctor from the factory premises.
“We were often warned to keep quiet or we would be fired. Every form of freedom of speech was stifled and you are not allowed to complain if something bothers you. The factory management threatened that if workers spoke up, they would lose a 5,000-dinar-bonus, which for most people in the factory, is a considerable amount of money,” says Darko Bosić, a former employee.
Bosić added that due to the fact that the workers could not meet their production norm in eight hours, the management would extend the shift to last ten hours. He also said that his wife, who was also employed at the factory, was fired because she said she no longer wanted to work ten-hour shifts.
“They didn’t want to renew her job contract because she refused to work for ten hours. We have two small children at home,” Darko Bosić, who spent nine months working at the Leoni factory in Kraljevo, explains.
He went on to say that the time spent in the toilet is measured for the workers, and if they do not return in five minutes, they are given warnings and their bonuses are taken away again.
Leoni’s management says that Danka Ranković was injured at work on February 21, as they stated “during an accidental trip and fall.” They deny that she worked 10 hours that day and 10 hours a day the entire week before that. They add that she was given adequate help immediately, after which she was referred for further medical examinations and released home on the same day.
Željko Veselinović, the president of the Sloga trade union, the largest in this factory, says that the Labour Law, which in his opinion is inadequate, has enabled the factory’s management to apply the so-called redistribution of working time.
“This means that, in certain periods of the year, workers can be sent home if there is no work for them. Then a worker has to make up for those hours spent at home, so they end up working 10 or 12 hours at a time. Unfortunately, that is all in accordance with the existing law”, says Veselinović.
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