UPLS December 21, 2021
PHOTO: Peter Kosztolcz I marinetraffic.com

Serbian shipping is one of the oldest occupations that exist continuously in our country and is one with a longer and more famous tradition in Europe.

The tradition of navigation and shipbuilding has developed side by side with German, Dutch and American shipping, building its own system and specificity in accordance with domestic water resources and business needs.

The entire system was designed on safety of navigation, safe transport, ecology, protection of workers and health at work. The system was provided and controlled by giant companies such as JRB, with adequate and regular control of the port authorities and navigation inspections.

The two shipping schools always provided young and quality staff who, even without today's numerous technological aids, took responsibility and command on ships in international navigation already in the early twenties.

The disintegration of Yugoslavia brought about great changes in this branch of the economy as well. Large companies are disintegrating and captaincies are left without enough people, the way of inspection supervision is changing.

Until 15 years ago, the situation was still somewhat clear. Ships with domestic crews were registered in Serbia and were therefore controlled by the navigation inspection and the labor inspection, with more or less success.

Now there is a new, seemingly unsolvable, problem.

With very little capital, you can buy a ship intended for recycling in the EU, open a company for 1000 dinars (10 euros) in Serbia and register a ship in Slovakia (which belongs to the offshore zone in terms of vessel registration). This way you are officially invisible and you can do whatever you want. Your ship is sailing and ABSOLUTELY no one controls the workers and the employment contracts. The Labor Inspectorate washes its hands that it is not possible to perform the inspection, the Navigation Inspectorate claims that it is not their competence and the employees on the ships are left to themselves and the (self) will of the shipowner who hires them. The owner of the company, when his ship is in the European Union, is invited to a company in Serbia, and when he is in Serbia to the flag of the EU state.

Employment in these phantom companies is usually done on a wage basis. Big per diems are promised (on hand, of course) and grandiose plans are made, which usually ends in a lack of employment contracts, huge debts to the ship's crew and finally a lawsuit that always lasts longer than anyone likes and often with the impossibility of final payment.

Of course, the biggest mistake of the shipowners is that, swayed by beautiful promises, they agree to such an outcome, but we come to the question WHO is responsible for controlling employers and who to turn to?

Today, we have three shipping schools that graduate an average of 60 students a year. Imagine sending your child on a ship that NO ONE controls. The Navigation Inspectorate does not control the use of HTZ equipment, the Labor Inspectorate does not control the working status, the state does not control the real correctness of ships and when you address the petition and the problem, everyone shifts responsibility to others or invokes officially declared that it does not exist) and which has become a magic word for doing nothing!

The number of sunken facilities, which were outside the law of the Republic of Serbia without a minimum number of crew members or without an adequate crew, testifies to how much publicity and lack of control have taken hold. On ships flying the Serbian flag in Serbia, foreign crews are hired - mostly from Ukraine, for the price of labor that is below the real market. No one checks work visas and no one thinks of saving our jobs for our workers. Healthy competition should exist, but what is happening in our country is far from healthy.

The law applies to some and not to others. So we have normal companies, which are registered with us and sail under foreign flags and which fulfill all their obligations to employees and the state, in accordance with the law, and we have people who came from other professions to engage in shipping and work on board. and water crew management as seasonal work on the farm.

The greatest damage is suffered by those employed on those ships, then the state due to unpaid taxes and contributions, and then the future generation of shipowners who will gain their work experience abroad due to "banana business" and no control of the authorities.

The same, or more precisely similar, problems appeared some 15 years ago in Western Europe. Independent owners of small companies, in order to increase earnings and reduce the price of freight, began to hire Filipinos and Indonesians, who paid up to 70 percent less than their citizens. The unions turned to the state and that practice stopped very quickly. People from Central and Eastern Europe are now being hired, but the condition for obtaining a work visa for non-EU citizens is a contract signed with a company guaranteeing payment of the minimum wage in Germany for the type of work being done.

Germany, as a country with a large number of navigable rivers and a large number of ships, controls ALL ships (regardless of flag) and employment contracts if they spend more than 180 days a year on their territory or if it has its own citizens who are employed on a ship. .

As a trade union, we point out the noticed shortcomings in the System and call on the competent ministries to consult and find a solution to the identified problem. We believe that the re-establishment of order and control in this area of ​​traffic would restore the dignity and reputation of the shipping profession that Serbia had in the world until recently, and that workers on ships would have a more promising future, adequate health care and a decent pension.

Source: www.slp.rs