Croatia: Union defends rights of Turkish workers in mega railway project

The BWI-affiliated Croatian Construction Union (SGH) started an extensive organising campaign focused on Turkish workers employed at the Križevci-Koprivnica railway project. The union said that the workers are deprived of weekly holidays and enduring long working hours. It also reported that subcontracted workers are putting up with  different levels of salaries.

SGH visited Turkish workers at the worksite and shared leaflets and other materials to inform them about their rights in Croatia. Following the union’s first visit, The Turkish workers approached the union and reported their poor working conditions, which are totally against Croatian laws. In its second visit, SGH distributed membership forms to the said workers. 

The subcontractor CIAY Engineering responded by immediately dismissing 5 workers without any reason and/or explanation. The dismissed workers were only notified through SMS messages sent to their mobile phones. SGH attributed this solely to the workers’ membership with the union, an assertion that was strengthened with the managers’ refusal to meet with union officials. 

Following this, SGH organised a press conference where it called on labour inspectors to probe the company’s poor working conditions and determine whether or not Turkish employers respect workers’ rights guaranteed by the collective agreement in Croatia’s construction industry. The union derided the company for punishing its workers who simply contacting a trade union, saying that it is one of the most serious violations of the workers’ right to organise as guaranteed by Croatian and international law.

SGH and BWI are now preparing court cases against the employer to ensure that its workers will receive union compensation.

SGH President Jasenka Vukšić said that the railway project is largely financed by European Union (EU) funds, and as such, must comply with national and international labour standards to ensure the equal treatment of the domestic and migrant workers it employs. “We expect the Inspectorate to act in accordance with its powers because it has the right to control and sanction such actions,” she said.

The Križevci-Koprivnica railway project seeks to rehabilitate a 42.6 km rail line in Croatia. It involves the reconstruction and upgrade of a part of the Croatian segment of the Mediterranean corridor, stretching from Krizevci to the Croatia-Hungary border via Koprivnica. It is said to be Croatia’s largest railway infrastructure.  

Awarded by Croatian state-run company HZ Infrastruktura, Cengiz Insaat Sanayi ve Ticaret secured an HRK 2.42 billion contract to complete the project. It is co-financed with HRK1.8bn in funding from the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).