Slovenian MPs ratified a Slovenia-Serbia agreement governing the employment of Serbian workers in Slovenia. The agreement, which for instance ties Serbian citizens to a single employer for a year, is meant to help address the needs of Slovenian companies and safeguard worker rights, but a rights group has not welcomed it.
The agreement, reached under the previous governments in February 2018, is modelled on a similar accord Slovenia had signed with Bosnia, the country from which it has the largest number of foreign workers, Serbia places second.
It allows Slovenian companies to only hire those Serbian citizens who are registered as unemployed in Serbia. The exceptions include highly skilled workers, workers with long-term residence permits in Slovenia, those who legally joined their families or enjoy asylum in Slovenia.
The annual number of workers to be accepted will be determined by the Labour Ministry on the basis of developments on the labour market and the needs of employers.
When a protocol to implement the agreement was signed in November 2018, there was talk of a possibility of 4,000 Serbian citizens getting jobs in Slovenia that year, up a third from 2017. The number of Serbian citizens working in Slovenia at the end of September 2018 was 10,451, up 24.5% year on year. The number of Bosnian citizens was 41,832, up 21.4%.
Under the agreement, seasonal workers will in principle need to return to Serbia unless they will wish to continue working with the same employer.
Those in long-term jobs will first get a permit to work in Slovenia for three years, and the employer will have to give them a contract for at least one year. A no-fault dismissal will be possible within a three-month test period, while labour relations act provisions will apply after that.
Following the first year, workers will have an option to get free access to the labour market, meaning they will no longer be tied to the first employer. They will be able to find better employment, launch a company or start working for a temping agency.
Meanwhile, Serbian workers dismissed on fair grounds will have their working permit rescinded and will have to return to Serbia immediately unless they meet unemployment allowance conditions. Those who will lose work because of contract violations by their company will be given 30 days to find a new employer for the same type of work.
The agreement is meant to encourage voluntary returning to Serbia following the work permit expiration. All who will return to Serbia voluntarily and will try to find or create a job there will also be able to later find work again in Slovenia. Serbia will be able to prevent this in cases where workers will decline a fair employment offer in Serbia.
“The purpose of this provision is giving the origin country the possibility of controlling the labour migration flows of its citizens and managing imbalances on its labour marker,” the Labour Ministry said.
Meanwhile, the news has not been welcomed by the Counselling Office for Migrants, which said the agreement was discriminatory.
“‘Congratulations’ for allowing the model of chain violations of the rights of migrant workers caught in the employment agreement between Slovenia and Bosnia – which makes workers stay for a year with the employer that filed the work permit application – to now also be transferred to migrant workers from Serbia,” the organisation’s head Goran Lukić wrote.
“Also congratulating you are all the foul employers who are already looking forward to being able to exploit for a year (at least) a new group of migrant workers,” he added.