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In Serbia, at least 45,000 people go to work every day, but nobody expects salary, fee or any other type of compensation any more. The economy is in trouble, layoffs are announced, and new workers are not likely to be hired. Tamara Prodanovic has more.
The economy this year is only beginning to recover. This entails new fears of workers, due to the potential loss of job. Employers abuse the fact that over 760,000 people has been registered in the Labor Bureau, and although payments are late, it is better than being just a name on the list of the National Employment Service. One third of the unemployed people have never worked, the average employment waiting time is four and a half years, but some remain on the Bureau’s list for a decade. Half of them, who have never been formally hired, are under the age of 30, and they are often targeted by unscrupulous employers.
Unions estimate that the number of employees who are paid late, if at all, is much higher than the official statistics. Thus, it is estimated that only one in five employees is paid on time. Others wait at least a month, but salaries can be delayed by more than two months, and even years. What about overtime? Over the past three years, 270,000 workers have lost jobs, so someone has to do the work for the same pay. Two thirds of employees in Serbia stay late work, and their workweek is longer than 60 hours. These employees say such efforts are not rewarded and only occasionally one or two of the lucky ones get paid for overtime.
If employers would be criminally charged for their actions, according to unions, thousands of them would be behind bars. Salaries are also paid late in many firms undergoing restructuring, because nearly 90 % do not regularly pay their employees. Failure to comply with labor rights, according to the current provisions of the Criminal Code of Serbia, provides for a fine or imprisonment, which means that the employer can be sentenced to up to two years in prison. This applies to all who deliberately do not follow the law or regulations, collective agreements and other labor related acts. Employers do not oppose criminal penalties for failure to pay wages as long as it is clearly defined who should be held responsible and when. They believe that if there are no funds to pay salaries, taxes and contributions, they should not be criminally charged. But if the employer has bought a car, and employees have not been paid, as far as distressed workers are concerned, such employers should end up in prison.
It has become too expensive for private business owners to fire employees, the severance are considered only by large state-owned companies, while the rest of them are far away from European standards. For example, severance packages in Central and Eastern Europe are lower than those in the West, but that does not mean they are low. The highest ones are paid in Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands. To fire an employee is costly both in Italy and Austria, while it is rather cheap in Latvia and the Czech Republic at the moment.
Whether and when things will change for the better in Serbia, nobody knows. The global crisis has brought about big problems, so it is up to us – workers of this or that kind – to swim or sink. Source; Radio Srbija
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