Germany: Hearing I
As part of the “Testing EU Citizenship as Labour Citizenship: From Cases of Labour Rights Violations to a Strengthened Labour-Rights Regime” project co-funded by the European Union under the Europe for All Citizens Programme, 5 partner countries including Czech Republic, Romania, Italy, Lithuania and Germany, are Hearings with migrant workers from various economic sectors.
As part of its activities in Hearing1, Polska Rada Spoleczna held a meeting with workers of Polish citizenship who had worked or were still working at a meat processing plant. The participants were interviewed about their current working and living conditions as well as their reasons for seeking work in Germany. Special attention was paid to cases of exploitation, labor rights violations and discrimination. Experiences with the authorities and regulatory institutions were also recorded.
The workers reported serious exploitation and labor rights violations. Most commonly mentioned was the hard work, the lack of proper tools and introductory training. Usually the workers worked long hours and night shifts without extra pay for the night shifts. Injuries or health problems were prevalent. Another issue frequently described was housing. The rooms rented from the employer were described as derelict. Any breach of rules or attempt to speak up was met with severe consequences ranging from monetary punishments to physical and verbal abuse. Most of the workers reported being scared or feeling threatened by their (former) employer. Therefore, none of the interviewees agreed to show their face on photo or film made by PRS for documentary purposes.
As part of the event two short lectures were given: one on labor legislation and contracts and one on German institutions and authorities. These were supposed to help the participants in handling legal proceedings arising from their current or former employment and/or life in Germany as well as to protect themselves against further violations of their rights. Following the meeting, the participants were given the opportunity to ask detailed questions concerning their individual difficulties and get legal advice. It became apparent that many of the workers had little knowledge of the German legal system or labor rights. Also much evidence was given for the inability of the German institutions or authorities to adequately address the perceived needs of the interviewees.
The meeting was recorded by a camerawoman as well as an assistant. The results will be reviewed and used to develop tentative recommendations as well as identify possible participants for the Hearing II from the pool of interviewees.
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