Serbian working class protests new minimum wage, terms it inadequate

The Serbian government has set the minimum wage for the year 2023 at 40,020 Serbian Dinars (USD 341.59) per month. Trade unions and leftist political parties say it is insufficient to make ends meet

September 19, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Minimum Wages - Serbia
The trade union mobilization at the Palace of Serbia. (Photo: via Facebook)

Trade unions and other working class sections in Serbia are protesting the minimum wage proposed by the government for the upcoming year as insufficient. Political parties including the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia (NKPJ) and the Party of the Radical Left (PRL), as well as trade unions like the United Trade Unions “Sloga” expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s decision to fix the minimum wage for 2023 at 230 Serbian Dinars (USD 1.96) per hour and 40,020 Serbian Dinars (USD 341.59) per month. 

On September 13, Serbian Finance Minister Siniša Mali announced the minimum wages for 2023 following the Social Economic Council session. Mainstream trade unions organized a demonstration in front of the Federal Executive Council building (Palace of Serbia) in Belgrade while the council was in session. In its statement on September 14, NKPJ demanded that the government raise the minimum wages to 50,000 Serbian Dinars (USD 426.77) per month in order to meet the cost of living.

The current minimum wage in Serbia is 35,000 Serbian Dinars (USD 298.74) per month. In the run up toward the discussion to fix the minimum wage for 2023, mainstream trade unions including the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia and the “Independence” Trade Union Confederation had called for a significant hike in minimum wages, at par with the minimum consumer basket (cost of household consumption and essential services) which currently stands at 50,190 Serbian Dinars (USD 428.39) according to the unions.

Countries across Europe have been facing an acute cost of living crisis marked by skyrocketing fuel and food prices. The European Union’s (EU) sanctions on import of natural gas from Russia in response to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and speculative profiteering by energy producers and suppliers in Europe are generally regarded as major factors that triggered the crisis.

On September 15, in its statement, the NKPJ condemned the decision of the government on minimum wages. The party said that “the decision of the Government of Serbia is an anti-popular and anti worker one and it showed us that the government defends big capital interests rather than the interest of the workers. Three years ago, the government said that minimum wages would be equal to the minimum of the consumer price index, but they didn’t want to do it.”

Željko Veselinović, president of the United Trade Unions of Serbia “Sloga,” said that “the minimum wage in the country is decided solely by President Aleksandar Vučić, and it will remain so until a general strike is launched.” He also called for the cooperation of all relevant union centers in the country.”