Recent weeks saw rumours on social networks that Geox company could leave the city of Vranje, but they didn’t differ much from many previous announcements by foreign investors about moving their production from Serbia to one of the neighbouring countries.
However, the daily Danas claims to have talked with workers in the factory, who allegedly confirmed that the employer had in fact decided to stop production and “pack its machines”.
According to the press, the closing-down sale which took place in the Vranje Geox shoestore in the last few days also indicates that the only foreign investor is about to leave the city.
Stefan Aleksić from Clean Clothes Campaign, an organization monitoring labour rights in textile industry, is still not entirely convinced that Geox will actually leave Serbia:
“It is still possible that the brand is simply blackmailing the Serbian Government and demanding new subsidies”.
“Geox is unlikely to find such a combo of cheap labour, poorly organized workforce, a state ready to resolutely close its eyes to all violations of labour rights, enormous state subsidies and who knows what other benefits that came from the disastrous race to the bottom, elsewhere”, stated Aleksić for Mašina.
If the company in fact leaves, it will be is necessary to pose the question “Who will return the large sum of money that were handed out to Geox in the form of benefits, subsidies, turning a blind eye and the like?”, says Aleksić and adds that there is an even more important question to ask: “How to prevent such entirely disastrous economic policies in the future?”
“Geox will have to somehow answer before the public of Serbia and EU, where it pretends to represent a successful business model, but also before the buyers of its products.”
The other door that needs to be knocked on is the door of the Government of Serbia, from which responsibility should also be demanded, believes Aleksić.
A breakup filled with bad memories
Geox has been doing business in Serbia since 2012. The company opened the factory in Vranje in 2015, in the presence of Aleksandar Vučić.
The public has not been fully informed of the amount of public money that has been allocated to the company to assure that it comes and stays. It is publicly known that Geox received 9,000 euros for every employed worker from the state treasury, but the government also approved additional means for the company, so that the media estimate that this investment cost the citizens of Serbia somewhere between 12 and 14 million euros.
As Mašina reported earlier, the Geox factory in Vranje has been accused of extremely bad working conditions and disrespect for workers’ rights from the beginning.
Translation: Iskra Krstić