Several Vietnamese workers employed by the Chinese Ling Long tyre factory in northern Serbia have told an N1 reporter what dire conditions they live in and said they would like to go back home, which they had left hoping for a better life.
The N1 crew is the first to film the warehouses at the Ling Long construction site near the northern town of Zrenjanin, the first European factory of the Chinese Tire Industry.
Some 750 workers, 500 of them from Vietnam, live there, confirming reports on inhumane conditions at the Chinese factory, which Serbia advertised as an excellent investment regardless of its proven devastating effect on the environment.
Those men have been poor in Vietnam, but here, they say, they are worse off.
Some will instead go back but do not have personal documents. The Chinese bosses, as they said, had taken their passports, and the Vietnamese agency which hired them cut off all contact when they arrived in Serbia.
And here, they find themselves sleeping at old bunk beds, which do not serve only for the night. Some workers spend their free time there, with mobile phones that sometimes cannot be charged. They often run out of electricity, which is provided by one unit for 750 people.
They don’t even have essential household appliances; they wash their clothes with cold water and don’t have enough warm water for bathing.
Some Vietnamese who talked to N1 said that the lack of clean water might make some sick.
And then, the patients are put in an improvised hospital room without a doctor.
All that is happening in the factory, for which the Chinese owners received 95 hectares of land for free (A-category ploughland-converted construction land), of an estimated 7.6 million euros.
According to the decision of the Commission for Control of State Aid, which gives the green light for the subsidy, Ling Long will receive 75 million euros in grants from Serbia’s budget to employ at least 1,200 workers by the end of 2024.
Their net salary will be 42,000 dinars or just over 357 euros at the current exchange rate. An average net salary in October 2021 was some 510 euros, according to official data.
Chinese owners plan to invest 800 million euros by the end of 2025, of which some 252 million euros in construction and 547 million in new equipment.
Earlier reports witnessed the treatment of journalists, foreign and local, who tried to film the factory and talk to an environmentalist.
Serbia’s Ministry of Culture and Information issued a statement saying that no one should interfere with the journalists’ work.