A story about (un)posted workers

Only after media reports and trade union reaction were Indian workers, hired on construction works in Serbia, enabled to go back to their country, but without remaining salaries being paid to them, as this was the unfulfilled request that made them go on strike. This is a part of epilogue of a story about Indian construction workers, hired on the construction of viaduct “Čortanovci”, who being dissatisfied with their employer’s attitude left the country with a modest amount of 5,000RSD per person instead of two and a half salaries that were left unpaid.  

The whole thing started when workers from India were hired by a company in Serbia through a partner company in the USA, and the problem arose because workers’ contracts were made according to the US legislation. In line with contracts, workers organizing strike, as well as those participating in it, shall be fined. Also, all conflicts shall be settled by a competent court in Florida.           

In any case, contracts are quite disadvantageous, the salary is around 360 dollars per month and they are paid directly to workers’ accounts in India while they get 5,000 dinars for their expenses in Serbia. Regarding the contract they signed, it is precisely said that the employer buys return plane tickets only if they stay working till the end of works. If the contract is terminated earlier, they are supposed to buy the tickets themselves. Since two and a half salaries were not paid, workers went on a strike and at the same time they were not able to buy the return tickets.

Here, we come across a story of social dumping because workers coming to work here, especially in the construction sector, are paid considerably less compared to local workers. There is a lot of work on the ‘black market’, workers are not registered, i.e. they do not have work permits and only after something bad happens are the actions taken. There is an open question of work exploitation and polemics on whether these are posted or agency workers were developed. Problem was further complicated by the fact that contracts were concluded in the USA because of which Labour Inspection could not perform the control and get the insight into the contracts. In line with the Article 34 of Serbian Law on Employment of Foreigners, offence proceedings were initiated against a company which hired them because during the inspection it was determined that workers did not have work permits. The epilogue of this story is that workers suffered damage, remaining salaries were not paid and the engagement of new workers remains an issue. There is also a question of controlling subcontractors, violation of legal procedures and judgments in worker-
employer relationship. All of this proves the importance of information and availability of information to workers who go to work abroad, but also the need for support and help where the role of trade union as a CSO is irreplaceable.

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