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Gyergyóditró Locals Apologize to Srí Lankans, Still Criticize Bakery

Ábrahám Vass 2020.02.13.

Following the uproar caused by the arrival of Srí Lankan guest workers to the Transylvanian village of Gyergyóditró (Ditrău), which led to racist exclamations and an almost international scandal, the locals’ anger seems now to turn towards the bakery itself, while the two bakers can now work and live there in peace. 

At one point, the two bakers even had to find accommodation elsewhere; then, at an assembly held amid police presence and in a tense atmosphere, locals instead criticized the employer who, in their view, exploited employees, making them work overtime without compensation, in addition to the poor conditions and extremely low wages.

Then one week ago, the factory was fined 10,000 Lei (Eur 2,093) by the labor inspector due to certain conditions in the factory. Meanwhile, a police investigation is also underway, as the bakery pressed charges for intimidation, incitement to hatred, incitement to discrimination, and public nuisance against 17 people.

As of now, the bakers can work in peace; however, criticism against the bakery hasn’t reduced.

On Monday, the ombudsman’s report was made public. It found that the arrival of guest workers had created a long-time economic conflict between the bakery’s owners and some former employees, and this escalated situation has led to extreme and intolerant actions.

Then, local Antena TV paid a visit to Gyergyóditró and interviewed the guest workers. The Srí Lankans agreed that the situation has calmed by now. In addition, they are pleased both with their living and working conditions. One of them also claimed that the Hungarians even apologized to them.

Then on Tuesday, an open letter (the author and the number of those signing it is unknown) was published. The letter calls on the bakery:

  • to publicly apologize to the residents for violating the town’s reputation
  • to publicly apologize to the employees for the breaches they committed
  • to pay overtime and unpaid leave
  • to support the establishment of a trade union
  • not to employ foreign workers until local unemployment exceeds 2%
  • to present evidence of the Srí Lankan workers’ professional qualifications of medical records
  • and mainly, to respect the tranquillity, self-esteem, traditions, and religious practices of the locals

Meanwhile, according to news agency Mediafax, a third Srí Lankan baker has arrived in Gyergyóditró. The CEO of the bakery, Katalin Köllő, told maszol.ro that they couldn’t find a local worker for the job. She also confirmed that since the employment of the guest-workers, sales in the town and neighboring villages have indeed been halved, unlike in nearby regional center Gyergyószentmiklós (Gheorgheni), which wasn’t affected.

She also claimed that in her view, if all the accusations were realistic, they couldn’t have been operating for the past ten years. Köllő also argued that at the meeting, they called on (former) employees to come along should they feel the company owes them somehow, but no one has actually stepped forward yet.

featured image via MTI/Nándor Veres