Balkan Private Sector Workers Hardest Hit by Coronavirus Fallout

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed private sector workers in the Balkans to sudden job losses, salary cuts and forced unpaid leave as rights violations stack up.

Sudden redundancy; forced unpaid leave; massive pay cuts – while authorities in the Balkans count the cost of COVID-19 in terms of infection rates, deaths and the damage to the economy, private-sector workers find themselves particularly vulnerable to the effects of a global lockdown on the tourism, hospitality, services and retail industries.

With unions sounding the alarm over a spike in violations of worker rights, BIRN has identified a number of examples affecting particularly those on fixed-term contracts.

They range from sudden layoffs to workers forced to take unpaid leave, significant wage cuts and pressure on vulnerable categories of workers to forgo already-approved paid leave.

Those keeping the country functioning – from police officers to supermarket employees – complain of being forced to work overtime without compensation and, in many cases, having to pay out of their own pockets for protective equipment against the novel coronavirus.

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