Labor exploitation of social assistance beneficiaries in Municipality of Niš

A 11 – Initiative for Economic and Social Rights (Initiative A 11) expresses concern over the announcement made by the Mayor of Niš that based on the Decree on measures of social inclusion of beneficiaries of financial social assistance, beneficiaries of this type of social benefits could be employed as municipal monitors in order to control compliance with epidemiological measures. Having in mind the fact that this is unpaid and forced labor, we want to emphasize that the announced type of employment would result in labor exploitation of beneficiaries of financial social assistance.

The mentioned Decree stipulates, among other things, that able-bodied beneficiaries of financial social assistance will be included in socially useful work, i.e. work in the local community, on the order of the Social Welfare Center. Those beneficiaries who refuse this type of activation may lose or have their social assistance reduced.

With this in mind, we would like to point out that according to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, any work or service to which individuals are forced under threat of punishment or did not voluntarily applied for is considered as forced labor, and that this type of work is prohibited by the Convention of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

We want to remind the public that due to all the above, three initiatives were sent to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Serbia in 2014 to assess the legality and constitutionality of the said Decree, and that the Protector of Citizens submitted a proposal to assess its constitutionality. Despite the existence and application of such regulation and all the harmful consequences it produces, the Constitutional Court did not rule on the submitted proposal and initiatives even seven years later.

Initiative A 11 asks the mayor of Niš to give up the announced employment of users of financial social assistance without any compensation or to do so under the conditions prescribed by law, by offering them fair and equitable compensation for the performed work. We also invite the financial social assistance beneficiaries who are invited by the Social Welfare Center in Niš to perform the work of communal monitors to contact us in order to provide them with appropriate legal support.