Three workers of the Dräxlmaier factory in Zrenjanin, Serbia were fired , according to Masina’s sources. At the beginning of October workers in all three shifts discontinued work for an hour to protest against low wages and vague criteria for payroll calculation. Dräxlmaier suspended 32 workers on the account of strike. However, most suspensions have been lifted after the Labour inspectorate intervened.
Nevertheless, three workers so far have paid the toll. Robert Koska, Y.V. and Zorica Lazin were given notice, as Masina found out. The management of Dräxlmaier hasn’t answered our question how the three were selected between a few thousand workers who discontinued work on the 9th of October.
As Robert Koska stated for Masina, the notices are unjust, and the firm selectively decided on the “misfits”:
I believe that it’s not fair, or just. Above all, it’s unjustified. The whole company was in a standstill, and we were the only ones to get fired. I’ve worked there for nine years, they had no complaints at my performance, I did whatever needed to be done, I didn’t complain wherever they sent me. I kept quiet and worked, and now this, says Koska.
The notice states that Koska discontinued work on the 10th of October, the day after the strike, thus stopping work without justification, and also preventing other colleagues to work, which “led to a threat to the regular flow of production”.
The laid-off worker, however, claims that everybody in the first shift stopped working that day because they waited for the management, who were supposed to enter negotiations.
The only thing I have left is the fact that I will be able to look everybody in the eye in the future, and not have to hide when I pass these people. I remained on good terms with everyone. I am especially grateful to the colleagues at my production line, who spared money out of their own pockets to compensate for the pay I lost during the suspension, which I received because of the strike we all took part in. I think that that says enough about my relationship with my colleagues and my character as a worker, states Koska.
On the 9th of October a spontaneous strike against low salaries and poor working conditions in the German company Dräxlmaier occured, supported by around 80% of the workers in a factory employing 5886 people. It broke out without trade unions’ support. Dräxlmaier suspended 32 workers, but failed to give an explanation on the criteria they used to select who to sack. After particular workers filed complaints, the Labour inspectorate came to ask that same question. It decided that suspensions were against the Labour law, which made Drexelmeier’s management anull as much as 28 suspensions, the Ministry of Labour confirmed for Mašina.
In a response to Masina’s inquiry, Dräxlmaier stated that most workers’ suspensions will be cancelled, but that “there are exceptions”, people with whom Dräxlmaier had “lost confidence for future cooperation with”.
Masina’s journalists addressed the Inspectorate of labour on this matter.
Dräxlmaier plants are located in the Free Zone in Zrenjanin, which offers an exemption from VAT and other rules. The German company also received subsidies from 2007 to 2012 – both from the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and from the Republic of Serbia. The Ministry of Economy refrained from disclosing the sum of money that was transferred to this company during its 12 years in Serbia, but according to media reports, Dräxlmaier received EUR 5,000 per worker for the first 806 employees, which is just over four million euros in total through the Direct Investment Incentive Program.
According to the Ministry of Labour’s data, Draxelmaier currently employs 5886 workers – 3620 people with long-term agreements, and 2266 people engaged on temporary agreements.
Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić
This article was originally published in Serbian on Nov 22, 2019.