The complicated case of the two Sri Lankan workers from Ditrau: Central authorities take stand, hesitating owners and other job offers

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One day after they had announced they will remove the two Sri Lankan workers from the manufacturing process of the bread at the bread factory in Ditrau, Harghita, following the locals’ protest, the owners of the plant changed their mind and gave in to criticism of the civil society, announcing the Sri Lankan are hired again.

Hundreds of villagers of Ditrau commune in Harghita county, Romania, staged protests last week because a bread factory in the locality had hired two employees from Sri Lank. The locals said they fear ‘a wave of refugees might come in their commune to impose their culture and jeopardize the safety of the villagers.’

Kollo Katalin, one of the owners, said that she had initially proposed a deal to the residents of the village for fear the conflict might degenerate and the men from Sri Lanka will get hurt, but, after seeing the locals do not accept their offer, they decided that the bakers can remain in the manufacturing process.

The woman said though that the two Sri Lankan bakers fear the locals’ anger, and also the other employees of the bread factory fear the villagers.

We have other workers who have been threatened for working with the Sri Lankan men. We have other 90 people working in Ditrau”, Kollo stated.
As two landlords who accommodated the two Sri Lankan workers in Ditrau had even received threats from the villagers, the owners of the bread company decided to relocate the foreign workers to another locality, Gheorghieni.
In the villagers’ camp, the reasons why they don’t want the Sri Lankan are not quite clear. Some argue the arrival of the foreign workers to their commune will open the gate for more and even for refugees. Others claim they do not having anything against the Sri Lankan bakers, but they just don’t want Piumal and Amahinda touch the bread with ‘their black hands’.
In his turn, the Roman-Catholic priest from Ditrau, Bírók Károly, criticised even by the Roman-Catholic Archbishop of Alba Iulia, who said the local “had got involved in a conflict that exceeds his powers”, said he acted as his conscience had dictated him and that he had no regrets and assumed his stance. Priest Bírók Károly was the leader of the protesters from Ditrau who protested in front of the town hall.
Moreover, Kelemen Hunor, the leader of UDMR, the political union that represents the Magyar community in Parliament, has somehow blamed the priest for inflaming things in the locality. He said that one cannot label an entire community in Ditrau “because of an excited priest and of some persons whose stance cannot be endorsed and accepted“. “I tell the locals in Ditrau to stay calm, to reject manipulation and any for of extremism”, Kelemen Hunor added.
During the weekend, the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) announced they are notified over this case over alleged racism and discrimination.
Harghita Police has also announced that it had opened a criminal case for charges of discrimination and incitement to hatred in Ditrau.
Moreover, the Labour Inspectorate from Harghita is conducting a check today at the bakery in Ditrau, following criticism launched by some villagers who had been former employees of the factory, according to which the wages were low and working conditions were bad.
Labour minister Violeta Alexandru has also taken stand.
“I am surprised by the attitude of the local community regarding these two men who want to work, as locals forget our Romanians are also working abroad and maybe they are at risk of being treated the same. We have to be balanced in our views, like Romanian working abroad need respect, the same we must respect those who come to work in Romania,” the minister said.
Asked if the two Sri Lankan should stay at this job, the minister replied that “it is the decision of the factory owner, as it’s a private employer”.

Job offers for Piumal and Amahinda 

After the initial announcement of the factory owners that the two Sri Lankan bakers will be removed from the manufacturing process, the leader of Cluj County Council, Alin Tișe, said he is considering to contact the two workers to offer them a job in one of the local institutions.

In his turn, Suceava-based businessman, Stefan Mandachi, owner of Spartan restaurant chain, known after a year ago he had built “the first one metre” of highway in Moldavia, has also announced his availability to hire the two Sri Lankan in one of his restaurants. He revealed the first concrete steps to hire them had already been made, and that he’s only waiting for Piumal and Amahinda’s consent.

Even after the owners of the bakery announced the Sri Lankan will keep their jobs in Ditrau, Mandachi insisted for them to leave, arguing “the two will not have a good life in Ditrau” despite the authorities’ intention to ‘welcome them with flowers.’

The entrepreneur also considers that the lack of education is the root of all evil in this country, including of the conflict in Ditrau.

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