European Parliament expresses concern over treatment of Vietnamese workers in Serbia

The European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on 16 December expressing its grave concern over the abuse of Vietnamese workers employed at the Linglong tire factory in Serbia. 

In a vote of 586, the EP passed the “Resolution on Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law in Serbia,” which, among other things, called the EU delegation to Serbia, together with the Serbian authorities, to investigate the Vietnamese workers’ inhumane working conditions in the factory, and inspect the worksite and its lodging facilities.

It also called on Serbia to improve its alignment with European Union (EU) labour laws, adopt a new law on the right to strike, tackle undeclared work and amend the law on inspection oversight to comply with relevant International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions which have been ratified by the country.  

The resolution was adopted after the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI), the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) and a number of local human rights groups called on EU lawmakers to exact accountability from the company. 

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said that the Serbian authorities have, once again, failed to protect foreign workers’ rights as mandated and stipulate by the ILO. 

“This is similar to the case of Indian workers employed by the company GP Nikolić, Kraljevo in 2020, and many other abused foreign workers. Serbia must end its impunity of abusing the fundamental rights of its workers. BWI calls on the EU to support an EFBWW/BWI joint inspection to Serbia to develop a concrete roadmap to end abusive practices towards migrant workers,” Yuson said.

EFBWW General Secretary Tom Deleu noted that the abuse on workers’ rights happened in a candidate country to the EU. “We expect that the EP will send a strong signal and condemn this situation, and the European Commission to speak out in clear and unmistakable terms. We cannot leave these workers behind and let them be mistreated and exploited,” he said. 

The urgency to take concrete measures on the workers’ situation was further highlighted when unofficial reports said that a worker of Chinese origin was killed last 13 December in a construction site, after parts of a work equipment fell on him. The worker was employed by the China Energy Engineering Group Tianjin Electric Power Construction Co. Ltd, the main contractor company of Linglong.  The worker did not have a protective helmet at the time of the accident. Also, an ambulance which responded to the emergency, waited in front of the factory for 20 minutes before the worker was taken out.