“In Serbia, the aim of destroying all workers’ rights has been pursued for a long time and very thoroughly. Of course, the Labour Law guarantees certain rights to employees, but the employer is free to fully dictate working conditions, obstructs the formation of trade unions and in the end, forces employees to accept the collapse of all valid norms so they can keep their jobs,” says the Centre for Empowerment Policies, commenting on the statements made by a medical doctor from Leskovac that workers in the Aptiv factory in that town have put their health, physical, mental and social well-being at jeopardy for a monthly income.
“It is all a consequence of the poverty that is deeply rooted in our society. That is, when there is no other work, people are practically blackmailed into accepting brutal exploitation in order to earn money and provide their family with food and a roof over their heads,” Bojana Tamindžija and Vladimir Simović from the Centre for Empowerment Policies claim.
In July, Dr Aleksandar Rangelov catalogued a new type of patient: mostly women, often young, who suffer from inflammation of the tendons, lumbago and sciatica, who are already semi-disabled. As patients with these symptoms work in the Aptiv factory in Leskovac, Dr Rangelov had dubbed this condition the ‘Aptiv syndrome’.
According to experts, the problem goes much deeper than the violation of workers’ rights in this or that factory. It is, they say, an economic policy based on attracting foreign direct investments.
“If you don’t have an economic strategy other than attracting foreign investors, then you are in a position where they will dictate the conditions under which they will open their factories in your country. They also dictate the working conditions,” says Vladimir Simović.
“And then, like Geox, they either leave the country or, as in the case of Aptiv, they try in even more brutal ways to generate a profit while disregarding the welfare of their workers. If we are aware of such a situation where the government continues on the same path, then the only thing left for workers is to form trade unions, exercise mutual solidarity and put pressure on both employers and the state,” said Bojana Tamindžija.
According to the Labour Law, “the employer is obliged to ensure that the work process is adapted to the physical and mental capacities of the worker, as well as to the work environment, the means of work and that the means and equipment for personal protection at work are organised, produced and provided”.
If you don’t have a trade union, you have to form one. “If the existing union is not working well, change its management or form another union. For things to change for the better, collective action by employees is necessary,” the experts conclude.
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