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2 February 2017

Croatia: Independent Road Workers Union campaign puts an end to the exploitation of workers hired on temporary basis by private Employment agencies

In Croatia, in recent years increasingly workers got hired by Employment agencies for temporary work. The Agencies as a rule deprive workers by reducing the payment of their salaries, transportation allowances, work on weekends and holidays, work in shifts, night and overtime work, while Christmas bonuses and holiday allowances are in most of the cases not even paid at all.

According to the Labour Law salaries and other conditions of the ceded worker may not be set at an amount lower and less favorable than wages or other working conditions of workers employed doing the same type of work who concluded an employment contract with the client/employer.

However, in some companies in which the Independent Road Workers Union (NCS) of Croatia is operating the employers started to use Employment agencies for seasonal and also some permanent jobs.

The NCS, who become a BWI affiliate in November 2016, warned the employers that these agencies deprive workers by reducing their salaries and other material rights. Employers reacted by assuring the NCS that the agencies were right in doing this rather than solving the problem.

“We called and invited the agency workers to contact us to help them to realize their rights in line with the law at the court and charging the agencies for what they must pay to the workers. The workers feared for their jobs if they would file a lawsuit against the agencies. In a TV show I invited the worker to contact us and offered them legal advice and representation at the court for free. We promised that in case the court decided in favor of the agencies, our union would cover all the costs of the legal process, but if the NCS wins the case the costs without interests would be reimbursed by the concerned workers to our union. We could not accept this un-equal treatment of workers.” Said Mijat Stanic, president of the NCS.

A group of 70 workers approached the NCS and asked for help and support against miss-behavior of the Agencies. The Union invested into the campaign and court charges more than Euro 22.000, but after one and half years the Union received the first court decisions in favor of the workers. Four workers were already compensated by the concerned Agency, and more decisions are expected.

The struggle of NCS continues. The employers have changed their tactics and started to employ workers on seasonal basis, instead of agency workers, but in this case these workers enjoy all rights as permanent workers. In some cases Agencies have started to employ workers respecting provisions of collective bargaining agreements in force, but some not and NCS continues its campaign against this practices.

The NCS is an active participant ot the initiative “Platform against Precarious Work” that gathers trade unions and civil society organisations that support the workers movement. The aim of the initiative is to determine criteria at the employers and conditions under which jobs can be ceded to agencies, and that these criteria shall be agreed in collective bargaining agreements, and, in the next phase, these criteria shall be regulated by the labour law.
Links to press conference with agency workers:
https://youtu.be/phNE25ao68g
https://youtu.be/UM_4XT75HPc