• 2021-04-16

Seasonal Work in Serbia - Debate

Labour Rights Are Our Rights

On 16 April 2021, the Center for Democracy Foundation organised a debate on the topic: Seasonal Work in Serbia, as part of the Labour Rights Are Our Rights project.

A working group formed within the Ministry of Labour is currently working on amendments to the Law on Simplified Work Engagement on Seasonal Jobs in Selected Areas. By adopting the proposed amendments, the effect of the Law would be extended to include the following sectors: construction, hospitality, tourism, household support and creative industries.

What effect has the application of this Law had thus far? What is the driver of planned amendments? What is the position of workers engaged in this type of work under this Law – what rights are they, and what rights are they not able to exercise?

This type of work is a form of temporary and occasional employment standardised as work outside the employment relationship. The Law has reduced labour rights to a minimum and these workers are practically unprotected in relation to their employers and the Law even fails to guarantee adequate and safe work conditions.

Labour Rights Are Our Rights is a traditional project here that we have continued to implement over the years in collaboration with the Olof Palme International Center from Sweden. Collaboration with trade unions, but also with employers' associations i.e., social partners, is especially important for the Center for Democracy Foundation. We strive to promote that which is informally known as ‘social dialogue plus’ via this project where, together with CSOs, experts, university representatives, other organisations and independent institutions, we discuss the topics and issues dealt with by social partners, said the Executive Director of the Center for Democracy Foundation, Nataša Vučković, at the opening of this debate.

This topic of debate today was provoked by the amendments to the Law on Simplified Work Engagement on Seasonal Jobs in Selected Areas which aim to extend the effects of the Law and the possibilities for its implementation on various other areas of economic activity, primarily, construction, hospitality, tourism, household support, the creative industry, etc., which, according to a statement signed by the FCD on the initiative of several NGOs, represents the further precarisation of work. A large number of workers that are to be engaged in this way will become so through precarious work i.e., will be put into a situation where their labour rights are very poorly protected. Seasonal work, as defined in this way, is a form of engagement outside the employment relationship, which means that many of the labour rights granted under the employment contract are denied to these workers. 

We are well aware of the motivation behind this type of further ‘flexibilization’ which leads to the further weakening of job security for those in the labour market and in jobs. The problem lies in that there is a high level of informal work in Serbia, half a million people that is, if not more, work in this area of informal, unregistered work, but is this really the way to introduce these workers into some form of formal engagement, with reduced labour rights? – this is a key issue for us.

On the other hand, we wish to emphasise that in Serbia, in terms of the decentralisation of employment legislation, the issue of the Employment Act is constantly being narrowed and laws are continually being rendered that regulate certain issues in a specific way, issues that should be regulated under the Employment Act. This leads to the creation of a long list of laws that regulate employment relationships, which naturally, elicits contractions and the issue of how certain institutions will choose to apply these laws. We believe that these are not good practices. This Law on Seasonal Employment has this tendency to often take issues from the Employment Act and extract them into a separate law.

I would also like to remind you that in May 2020, the RS Government finally adopted the Action Plan for the negotiation of Chapter 19 – Social Policy and Employment, which envisages the dynamics of harmonising regulations and practices with EU standards in this area. This is one of the platforms on which the FCD will work in the coming period. We will closely monitor the implementation of this Action Plan, which is a condition for opening Chapter 19 – and in our opinion, is of vital importance to Serbia.

Before us is the first in a series of debates to be dedicated to these issues and monitoring the implementation of the Action Plan for Chapter 19. We will deal with similar debates within the frameworks of other projects implemented with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation - I can already announce that on 29 April we will be hosting a public event along with the United Branch Trade Union Independence, dedicated to commemorating 20 years of social dialogue in Serbia, said Nataša Vučković.

The opening statements of the debate were made by Saša Dimitrijević (United Branch Trade Union Independence), Marija Srdić (Union of Employers of Vojvodina), Aleksandra Lakić (’Zajedničko’ Association), Sarita Bradaš (FCD), the debate was moderated by Miloš Đajić (Centre of Modern Skills), and also participating in the discussion were Miloš Vučković (Radnik.rs portal), Dragan Cvetković (Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia) and others. 

The debate was organised through the Labour Rights Are Our Rights project with the financial support of the Olof Palme International Center.

Center for Democracy Foundation 


Seasonal Work in Serbia - Debate

Saša Dimitrijević, UGS Nezavisnost

Marija Srdić, Unija poslodavaca Vojvodine

Aleksandra Lakić, Udruženje “Zajedničko”

Sarita Bradaš, FCD