Romania: 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.
Conect Association held the first hearing with mostly Romanian workers that had experienced working abroad for a limited period of time, in countries like Germany, UK, Spain and Italy and in sectors related to construction, agriculture and domestic care. Also, we initiated discussions with non-EU workers that had experienced working in similar sectors of the economy, thus trying to obtain a better perspective on the labor experiences of Romania’s emigrants and immigrants.
During the hearings we have focused particularly on issues such as:
- Ways of finding jobs abroad (recruiting companies, personal connections, etc.)
- Type of contracts, guarantees and provisions that the workers were promised and the conditions they were offered in the field.
- Exploitation mechanisms (chains of subcontractors, lack of access to social benefits, improper working conditions, delays in payment, etc.)
- Support mechanisms for the workers that are reporting exploitative work conditions abroad (the role and involvement of trade unions, public institutions, embassies, NGO’s, web platforms, activist support groups)
- Legal issues and practices that are limiting the possibilities for investigating labor exploitation mechanisms (the workers cannot check if their contracts are registered, public institutions have very limited attributions, etc.)
Some of the workers talked about serious cases of labor exploitation, for example working without a contract, up to 12-14 hours/day, sleeping in improper conditions or not being provided with accommodation at all, being locked during controls from the labor inspection, not being offered medical care when needed, etc. Some of the victims of such situations have addressed the legal mechanisms and are now part of the trials against the ones that hired them, by denouncing the chain of subcontractors that is favoring such contexts as well. On the other hand, other workers chose to add these experiences to the endless list of similar stories, considering that getting involved in a trial against the employee or the recruitment agency would be too consuming and they would need to find other employment opportunities. The precarious situation of many workers is forcing them to accept jobs that do not offer any guarantees, and as some of them explained: “we are counting on luck, each time we hope that it will be ok”. Other workers consider that such experiences are making them more aware of the minimum conditions that they should check before accepting such jobs and also of the legal means that they can access in order to denounce cases of labor exploitation.
As part of Hearing I, we have initiated and renewed some connections with some trade unions, the labor inspections, NGOs that are working in the field of human trafficking (investigating cases of severe labor exploitation), as well as with some academics and activist groups that are supporting workers. These, together with some of the workers that shared their stories with us during Hearing I, will be invited to participate in Hearing II, which will take place in December 2015.
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