A group of migrant workers in Slovenia has been on hunger strike since March 1, 2010.
Mevludin Mostarlić (29), Samir Muhamedbegović (35), Nisad Huseinbašić (28), Samir Ljubijankić (33), Mustafa Begić (27), Jožef Lukač (54), Patrick Ištvan (60), Sead Husić (30), Sulejman Klitić (50), Almir Portić (28), Asmir Bošnjaković (25) have been fighting for their rights in a hut situated on the outskirts of Kočevje. The hut itself is made out of wood and polyvinyl, with gaps in the walls, which makes for entirely inappropriate living conditions.
The workers have exposed their bodies to cold, dampness and hunger in order to stress that they have contributed their labour,skill and youth to the future of the Republic of Slovenia but have not been paid for it. They represent a minority out of 130 workers, out of which, most have already left Slovenia dissapointed and cheated.
Contractor by the name of Perkovič has not compensated them for the work they have done in the past 15 months.
Their stories are unbelievable.The last time they received any pay from the contractor was in 2008, however they never received proper pay statements. Occasionaly they were given 30, 10 or even as little as 3 euro by the employer in cash. The employer has not paid the social security costs for the workers either. Therefore the workers on hunger strike demand an immediate payment of everything Perkovič owns them.
This is one of the many situations of distress 10% of the working population of the Republic of Slovenia is subject to. The question is raised, how can such extreme forms exploitation and abuse even be possible in a so-called welfare state with the rule of law. And why is it that the only way to raise public awarness and bring attention to the insufficient activity of the welfare institutions is by exposing bodies to hunger and cold.
When asked the logical question, why they continued working for a year and a half despite ever getting paid, the workers on hunger strike answer, that a cruel institutionalised system of creating dependancy on employers exsists in the background. A worker needs to work for the same employer for an uninterrupted period of two years in order to be able to apply for a personal work permit that is valid for 3 years. This is their only possibility to change the employer. The current work permit regime enables that the employers to exploit migrant workers for a minimum of two years, however the amount of time is often even larger due to a specific status of different types of work permits. All this enables the employer to exploit the workers and not respect their rights.
We would like to stress that obtaining a personal work permit does not level a migrant worker with all the other workers. A personal work permit comes with a residence permit, however, the time of validity of that residence permit is contigent on the duration of contract of employment. Therefore, the dependency of workers on their employer continues even after a personal work permit has been obtained.
The workers on hunger strike in Kočevje and the analysis of their situation clearly show, that the system of dependancy that RS establishes though the current regime of migrant work, contributes to utmost ways of exploitation and abuse.What is more, it enables general corruption. It is scandalous, that the workers were cheated while working on major construction projects,which were all financed with public money, from budgets of different minicipalities as well as EU funds.
It is high time that all those responsible for the situation, namely the government of the Republic of Slovenia and more specifically the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, take the responsibility for the distress of the workers on hunger strikes. Extreme formsof exploitation of migrant work force and the corruption created by the politics of migration in the Republic of Slovenia.
Supporters of the workers demand that:
1.the Ministry of labour, family and social affairs gets actively involved in the resolution of the dramatic situation of the workers on hunger strike in Kočevje. First step would be to invite all of them to the Ministry for a talk, the result of which should be an immediate termination of all reasons for continuation with hunger strike;
2.the Ministry and the government of RS take the responsibility for establishing and perpetuating the general system of exploitation of migrants, also by paying the workers on hunger strike the salaries they are owned to by the contractor Perkovič;
3.the Ministry and the government of RS begin with the proceedures to amend the Employment and Work of Aliens Act as well as Aliens Act. The amendments must abolish the system of dependancy of workers on employers and enable an actual equality of migrant workers.
Minister Svetlik, it is time, that you take the responsibility for the ruthless exploitation of migrant workers and corruption, which is enabled by the politic of migration in RS. It is not possible to tolerate the system of apartheid in the 21st century!
PROTEST MARCH: 9. 3. 2010, 12:00, Ministery of labour, Kotnikova 5, Ljubljana