The fight for eight-hour work and better financial position of late 19th-century workers, continued by strikes and protests against employers in the ensuing decades, had developed from the onset the idea of the inviolability of human dignity and individual freedom. Mr. Zoran Pašalić, the Protector of Citizens, said that we celebrated International Workers' Day, 1 May, in completely new circumstances in 2020 due to coronavirus epidemic and amid the state of emergency in
Serbia which in turn affected workers’ position and he added that the common element of all labor rights was the protection of human dignity, which was not called into question even during a state of emergency. The number of laid off workers, especially in the private sector, was still unknown to the public, while those who worked at their work premises were exposed to coronavirus infection in various ways and unfortunately many had died from the consequences of the infection. Mr. Pašalić underlined that in that war against an invisible enemy, healthcare workers were most at risk, together with salespersons, members of the police and the army, postmen, volunteers and journalists.
Citizens warn of violations of labor rights during the state of emergency, most often complaining that they have been fired or laid-off without explanation, forced to leave their children to go to work, but also to work in unsafe conditions, without protective equipment and prescribed work procedures. Mr. Pašalić underlined that as much as 20 percent of total number of citizens addresses to the Protector of Citizens was related to labor rights.
In the previous year, in the field of labor rights, citizens most often complained of harassment at work, arbitrariness and illegality when making a decision on termination of employment contract, non-payment, or irregular payment of wages and non-payment or irregular payment of social security contributions. Mr. Pašalić highlighted that they signaled untimely acting of the Labor Inspectorate, whose efficiency and quality of work was certainly affected by the number of labor inspectors, which was insufficient for efficient and quality work, and continued to complain about the untimely response of the National Pension and Disability Insurance Fund.
The health and working ability of the work force are critical factors in the overall socio-economic development of the country and the key to productivity, competitiveness and sustainable development, which is why this protection must be given close attention. Even though the number of occupational diseases has been decreasing in our country for years, the number of workplace accidents is on the rise, which is the reason for taking activities by the Protector of Citizens in the field of protection and safety at work.
In the coming period, the Protector of Citizens will pay attention to and protect the rights of entrepreneurs and SMEs, which are a significant factor in the economic life and prosperity of the country. As they state in their addresses, the current situation has made their business operation more difficult, which is the reason why the Protector of Citizens continues to monitor the exercise of citizens' rights in this area as well.