How to make “shoes that breathe” – will underpaid teenagers work in Geox?

Foto: Mašina

Geox owner Mario Moretti Polegato and the mayor of the city of Vranje in Serbia Slobodan Milenković discussed the possible implementation of a dual education based practice in the Geox factory in Vranje.

According to a report of the meeting held between the owner of Geox and the mayor of Vranje, published by B92 news portal, the company administration plans further radicalization of the privileged position of capital in Serbia by employing, even cheaper, child labour. As B92 reports, Polegato told the mayor that students will learn to make “shoes that breathe”.

Serbian model of dual education, namely, allows the employer to engage students of vocational schools, while paying them lower wages and leaving them unprotected by labour unions.

In the course of its so far short business practice in Serbia Geox has already become an example of workforce exploitation in Europe’s periphery.

Relying on the advantages offered by the Serbian state, Geox manages to produce costly shoes, while paying its employees in Serbia wages within the law prescribed minimum. Thanks to a flawin the EU legislation, Geox has been able to market its products as “made in EU” – thus making their customers believe that they are buying goods produced under “dignified” working conditions.

However, as research has shown, wages are not the only thing below even the most narrowly definied concept of dignity. Nothing can illustrate this better than the plea of workers in the Geox Vranje factory to be supplied with adequate air conditioning in the production hall. The inhumane heat and toxic fumes have already not only made their working conditions intolerable, but also present a serious threat to their health.

Although the international initiative Clean Clothes Campaign, observing the labour conditions in the clothes and shoes industry, warned against the poor working conditions in the company, Geox continues to profit from the scarce demand for workforce in Vranje and the vulnerability of workers.

This rounds up the story of class stratification in Vranje: the children of workers slaving off for minimal wages will learn how to make “shoes that breathe” in toxic, unbreathable conditions in the assembly halls.

Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić


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