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18 Sep 2023

Sonja Gocanin, RFE/RL

Serbia: Strict rules for workers employed at Chinese-operated copper mine spark concerns over labour legislation violations

'It's like the army': Strict rules ror workers at Chinese mining company in Serbia spark backlash, 18 September 2023

Strict new rules enforced at a Chinese-operated mine in eastern Serbia have sparked controversy and pushback in the Balkan country over concerns that the company is violating local labor laws.

According to an internal document from the Chinese firm Jinshan Construction...workers at the site are expected to begin each shift by lining up in formation for inspection by their managers and to greet their supervisors in unison.

Employees of Jinshan Construction...spoke to RFE/RL's Balkan Service and added that these preshift meetings sometimes consist of workers being reprimanded publicly for small infractions and then asked to recite company safety rules.

According to the company document, employees are then told to take a "safety oath," in which they vow to follow company regulations to the best of their ability. Workers at the mine, however, told RFE/RL that only Chinese staff participate in taking the public pledge...

News of the stringent rules at the mine has since sparked a backlash in Serbia, with labor groups and unions saying such conditions could be in violation of local laws, such as forcing employees to take an oath and work under hostile conditions. In response to the public pushback, Serbia's Labor, Employment, Veteran, and Social Policy Ministry launched an inspection of Jinshan Construction in August, RFE/RL reported.

The controversy has also exposed a growing fissure in Serbia between local and Chinese work cultures and a growing public perception that the country's authorities are turning a blind eye to unlawful labor practices by Chinese firms, which are becoming increasingly vital to the national economy...

Neither Jinshan Construction nor Zijin responded to RFE/RL's requests for comment, but the companies maintain that they follow local labor practices and uphold high standards for their operations in the country...