Roundtable, April 8, 13:00h, Medija Centar Nis
The Right to Work – Realistic Problem of Just a Phrase?
Not because of April 8th – International Day of Roma, but on that very day and because the group of secondary raw materials collectors from the Nis City Dump was forbidden to work, YUROM Centre will organize a roundtable about problems of secondary raw materials collectors. There are about 8,000 of them in Serbia.
In the last couple of days, a group of about 10 workers who collect secondary raw materials selecting them for recycling, from the Nis City Dump, were forbidden to work. The explanation for this, as well as termination of the Contract signed in 2003, according to which the collectors have been paying taxes to the Public Enterprise, can probably be found in the newly adopted Law on Waste Management. This could maybe be understood, if it weren’t for the recycling that represents the public interest, the city struggling with poverty and unemployment, precious raw materials that will be wasted in this way, country in which only 4% of waste is recycled and which is at the bottom of the list, workers who are left without jobs, Roma people who have nothing but dumps to work on.
A few days ago, they were left without that place as well.
All this is about a more serious problem demanding urgent and serious social attention.
Each year Serbia exports about 150 million euro worth of secondary raw materials, 95% of which is gathered by the „street collectors”. According to incomplete data, 2, 5 million of waste is produced in Serbia every year.
There are more and more Roma who engage with this every day. Life span of these workers is very short. 25% collectors are younger than 18.
The price paid to collectors is not increasing along with prices of other products. Selling price of the same raw material is six (6) times higher abroad, making this business one of the most profitable ones. It is all about silent and long-lasting exploitation of the labour and profit made through the unpaid labour. For 200 kilograms of paper collected, the collector gets 500 dinars. For that amount of paper, he needs to walk 19, 7 kilometres on average and lift the weight of 600 kg, every day. Working hours of the collector are 11 hours on average. Trade and export of the raw materials are more profitable than recycling. Through recycling industry in Serbia it would be possible to create new jobs for 3 to 15 thousand workers.
Why are things like that? How will the collectors get organized and make the state administration manage this problem in a socially responsible way?
All this will be discussed during the roundtable to which representatives of collectors from 10 Serbian towns will participate together with local government, public communal enterprises, unions, faculties and NGO representatives.
Osman Balic - YUROM Centre
Prof PhD Djokica Jovanovic - Sociologist