Three Serb labor inspectors, former members of the Serbian Civil Protection Corps, have stopped receiving wages two months ago. While Pristina claims that they were not paid because they boycotted work, the inspectors point out that this is not true, noting that they go to work every day. In an interview for KoSSev, the three inspectors spoke about the problems they claim to be facing in recent years – especially with the coordinator from the south, whom they accuse of mobbing. They also announced a hunger strike on Thursday – if their wages are not paid in full or they are not summoned to the announced disciplinary commission.
According to the Brussels Agreement, three labor inspectors, Veljko Andjelkovic from Leposavic, Ivan Jaksic from Zubin Potok, and Goran Vukojevic from Leposavic, as former members of the Serbian Civil Protection Corps, were integrated into the Kosovan system, following the 2015 technical agreement.
Three of these inspectors received a new appointment at the regional labor inspectorate – in Leposavic and Zubin Potok.
„We truly expected to be integrated,“ they say.
„We have nothing to do with the south, because we are envisioned as part of the region of North Mitrovica with its offices,“ Vukojevic told KoSSev.
According to the description of their duties, the inspectors are in charge of controlling employee health and safety.
Until 2019, they practically did not have any work assignments. They claim that after they were told about the integration and the obligations they had regarding the contract, no one contacted them, even though they regularly received their wages.
Things changed in the middle of 2019 when they received their first assignments, which they reportedly duly fulfilled. At the end of the same year, however, for the first time, they did not receive two months’ wages, which they later managed to recover.
As per the agreement, they say that their employer was obliged to provide them with offices, as well as work equipment.
„We were only given this, and it has since expired,“ Vukojevic added, showing his inspector’s ID.
Instead, three inspectors claim that they were not provided with anything, including the offices themselves, even though, according to the integration agreement, three offices were supposed to be established – in North Mitrovica, Leposavic, and Zubin Potok.
The inspectors reveal that they were finally provided with offices only thanks to the North Mitrovica Municipal Assembly and the support of Deputy Mayor Adriana Hodzic.
Initially, their official premises were established in the south, however, as they point out, this was not part of the agreement.
The office in question has since been taken over and opened in the North Mitrovica municipality by the director Agim Millaku, who recently confirmed for Pristina-based Koha that the salaries of three of these inspectors were abolished due to the boycott of work.
Since then, the three of them have gone to work every day, they told KoSSev. They furthermore claim of regularly sending the employee sign-in sheet to their coordinator via Viber. They say that they never skipped a day of work. The coordinator from the south, Nexhat Fazliu, has evidence of it in the form of the sign-in sheet and reports they send on a weekly basis, the inspectors underline.
We never turned down any call or work assignment. We responded to everything
They expressed suspicion that Fazliu did not send reports on their work to the headquarters in Pristina, citing Fazliu’s message to the headquarters in Pristina on how despite the fact that inspectors in the north come to work regularly – they „do nothing“ as the reason why their wages were terminated.
„We don’t have a monthly quota we have to meet. They told us to assess the quota ourselves,“ they point out, adding that the Serbian and Kosovo systems are intertwined in the North, but also that several entities are not even registered, which falls under the competence of the company registration agency.
When asked what their work in the field looks like, they responded with a question: How can a Kosovo inspector safely perform inspections in a hospital or pharmacy that, together with patients and users, rely on each other as part of the same interconnected system, the only one where citizens here get treatments?
KoSSev’s interlocutors also highlighted other problems they had with the coordinator, claiming that he intimated them. As a result, they say, their colleague from Zubin Potok stopped coming to work.
Speaking about Fazliu, they also remarked that they sensed extremist behavior on his part, adding that he allegedly draws part of his power from family ties with Sami Lushtaku.
We have a problem with our coordinator. We feel that he shows hatred towards Serbs
Inspector Vujovic also added that the coordinator Fazliu allegedly repeatedly told him that he was appointed to the position of coordinator „in order to solve the problem of the north“.
„Well, we had a colleague, I’m not going to name him now, who has not been to work since January out of fear of such things,“ adds Andjelkovic, noting that there are other „numerous examples“ of what they see as mobbing.
Although they were supposed to be provided with an official vehicle with 35 liters of fuel per month – they can only use it when traveling to the south.
„The coordinator, on the other hand, brags how their inspectors have their own vehicles, which they even use to travel to work,“ they claim.
They furthermore say that they also lack full training, despite repeatedly pointing out during the interview that they were part of a number of additional training programs.
„We worked with Serbian inspectors for two weeks. And after those two weeks, we were all alone – but we’re making do,“ they stressed.
The inspectors also point out language-related issues, i.e. documentation that is allegedly exclusively written in Albanian.
„We copy reports at our own expense and use Google Translate,“ says Vukojevic.
They also complained that they were given new uniforms only once in all these years, while other inspectors receive them every year.
The inspectors reveal that they particularly resent the fact that the Albanian press repeatedly wrote about them in a negative context, while some of them publishing their full names, without making efforts to hear their side of the story. They also remind that last week’s article is not the first such media report.
Out of a total of 35 labor inspectors in Kosovo, 8 are Serb, and 5 are boycotting work. After about five years of being on the payroll without actually going to work, their wages were suspended in February this year. One of them was recently fired, while the Labor Inspectorate is continuing the disciplinary procedure against the other four, Koha wrote last week.
The inspectors also informed the EU about everything that is happening. First by email, and then in person.
„We also informed Naim Hajdari, the EU dialogue advisor, on March 3rd. They came to see in what conditions we are working. We are now waiting for an answer.“
They announce a strike
The three inspectors announced that they would not give up the fight for their rights, about which they informed Pristina last week.
“If they do not pay us the back wages that we earned with our work or do not invite us to the disciplinary hearing, considering that the invite is a month late, we plan to go to the inspectorate offices in Pristina on Thursday morning and start a hunger strike,“ the three inspectors underline.
Although Pristina informed them about the disciplinary hearing a month ago, which their superior and chief inspector in Pristina, Millaku, also confirmed recently for Koha, they have not yet received an invite.
„We want to go to the disciplinary hearing. And we insisted that it takes place as soon as possible, in order to show them the evidence that we work and come to work, and to get our salaries back. But no invite has arrived yet,“ Andjelkovic added.
Finally, the inspectors said that they are not the only „collateral damage“ of politics.
„I think this is all political. All this that is happening, with the complete Civil Protection being integrated, educators, people also do not have the conditions to work. Nobody informed them where they should go, who are their superiors, and they don’t know anything. They suddenly read in the newspaper, went to the ATM, and were left without their wages,” inspector Goran Vukojevic said in a conversation with KoSSev.
Vukojevic underlines that “no one stood behind those people,” and that the problem lies not in the lack of their desire to work, but in the fact they believed in integration.
“However, the office that was supposed to be open until the total integration was completed is now closing. They are taking advantage of the situation in Ukraine. They spent money intended for integration. There is no one behind these people. We integrated, and now we are dismissing them, we do not need them,” Vukojevic adds, noting that they luckily have evidence that they worked and attended training programs.
“This is the whim of Albin Kurti, who is pursuing politics through his subordinates,“ he concluded.
In the meantime, KoSSev also reached out to the coordinator, Nexhat Fazliu, for his comment on the allegations presented by the three inspectors. Fazliu, however, told us to contact Chief Inspector Agim Millaku, while refusing to give us his contact number and telling us that the number is available on the site.
We reached out to Millaku yesterday by e-mail, but no answer arrived by the time this news was published.
In a text recently published by Koha, which KoSSev also picked up, Millaku spoke about these inspectors.
„At the moment, three of them (cf. Serbian inspectors), the group that is included in the regular form, are working together with other inspectors, but these five who were employed on the basis of an agreement – we had problems with them. The disciplinary commission has already made the decision to dismiss one of them, and we have four more against whom disciplinary proceedings are being conducted,“ said Agim Millaku, the acting Chief Inspector of the Labor Inspectorate.
The agreement on the integration of the Civil Protection members was signed on March 26th, 2015, most likely via the so-called shuttle diplomacy, after two years of talks. The news that the agreement was reached came as a surprise to the public, given that the two sides had diametrically opposed interpretations of the role and future status of civil protection, and that the public was not even aware that negotiations on this topic were underway. The agreement was also reached amid the Pristina-Belgrade visit of the EU High Representative for Security and Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini.
According to the agreements at the time, 463 former members of the Serbian Civil Protection Corps were to be transferred to the Emergency Management Agency (80), the Correctional Service (25), Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (25), Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (30), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (4), Agency for Agricultural Development (6), Agency for Forestry Protection (20), Tax Administration of Kosovo (20), Ministry of Health (20), Ministry of Infrastructure (30), Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (20), Ministry of Trade and Industry (25), Ministry of Local Government Administration (12), Agency of Information Society (16), Agency of Statistics (10), the Agency of State Archives (10), the Kosovo Cadastral Agency (6), the Agency of Food and Veterinary (20), the Kosovo Customs (20), the Agency for Environmental Protection (10), the Ministry of European Integration (4), the Contingency Fund (50).
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