6th Dec 2023

EU rules 'not sufficient' to protect striking migrant truckers' rights

  • "There are not two different categories of workers in this EU," said the employment Commissioner Nicholas Schmit. (Photo: ITF/ETF)
Listen to article

In a service area near the German city of Frankfurt, over 60 truck drivers (mostly from Georgia and Uzbekistan) have been striking for a month over abusive working conditions and unpaid wages by their employer, the Polish transport consoritum Lukmaz, Agmaz, and Imperia.

In mid-March, the company, which works in the supply chain of large multinationals such as Volkswagen, announced to its workers that they would no longer be paid.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

That was the last straw. The Uzbek and Georgian drivers stopped working and blocked the company's trucks in the German service area, waiting to be paid for the period they had worked for the Polish logistics group.

There, they have even improvised canteens inside empty trailers.

"Stopping to drive was the only option to change our situation", said a petition made at the time by the drivers.

Irregular and lower-than-promised payments, no minimum 45 hours of rest, difficulty getting the agreed days off, and nights sleeping in the cabs of their trucks were just some of the conditions migrant workers have suffered for months under Agmaz's employment.

"We are treated like slaves," a 44-year-old Georgian driver who supports his two daughters, wife and parents in Georgia told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

On Good Friday (April 7), the company tried to take back the trucks by force — unsuccessfully, thanks to the police and trade union presence.

"It is unbelievable that instead of immediately paying the wages owed to these drivers, their employer arrived at the picket line in an armoured car with hired thugs to intimidate workers and attempt to confiscate their trucks," Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) said in a joint statement with the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF).

"The existing business model for road transport is conducive to the violation of workers' and human rights," ETF added.

Moreover, according to the German act on corporate due diligence obligations in supply chains introduced at the beginning of 2023, corporations subcontracting transport services such as the Polish company are ultimately responsible for labour abuses in their supply chains.

'Exploitation in the European transport sector'

ETF, which represents more than five million transport workers, last week wrote to the European institutions demanding immediate action and a special focus on preventing the exploitation of workers from third countries.

On Tuesday (April 18), the Parliament discussed how to safeguard the labour mobility and social rights of these striking workers.

"There is a blatant systemic issue of exploitation in the European transport sector," said MEP Gaby Bischoff, S&D vice-president responsible for fair mobility for all. "This shows that the EU measures, which are in place to protect all workers, are not properly applied and partly not sufficient".

Employment commissioner Nicholas Schmit recalled that it is a requirement that these workers receive at least the minimum wage when they move to work in the EU.

"There are not two different categories of workers in this EU, there are only workers with the same rights and the same social standards," Schmit stressed.

For the ETF, the European Labour Authority (ELA) should use its authority and mandate to act through cross-border and joint inspections.The organisation also stresses that Member States enforce the mobility package, which includes measures to secure the rights of these workers, and that the Commission takes legal action to assess and improve the working conditions of third-country nationals.


How law encourages exploitation of migrant workers

Even though the European labour market increasingly needs them, migrant workers from third countries remain highly vulnerable. Part of this vulnerability is an artefact of the law.


Asylum and SLAPP positions in focus This WEEK

Home affairs ministers will work on trying to clinch a common position among EU governments on the migration management system regulation and the asylum procedure regulation, two key parts of the bloc's asylum reform.


The EU's U-turn on caged farm animals — explained

A European citizens' initiative — signed by 1.4 million people — saw the EU Commission promise to ban cages for 300 million farmed animals. Then the farming lobby got involved.


'Pay or okay?' — Facebook & Instagram vs the EU

Since last week, Mark Zuckerberg's Meta corporation is forcing its European users to either accept their intrusive privacy practices — or pay €156 per year to access Facebook and Instagram without tracking advertising.

Latest News

  1. EU nears deal to fingerprint six year-old asylum seekers
  2. Orbán's Ukraine-veto threat escalates ahead of EU summit
  3. Can Green Deal survive the 2024 European election?
  4. Protecting workers' rights throughout the AI revolution
  5. Russia, the West, and the geopolitical 'touch-move rule'
  6. Afghanistan is a 'forever emergency,' says UN head
  7. EU public procurement reform 'ineffective', find auditors
  8. COP28 warned over-relying on carbon capture costs €27 trillion

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  3. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  4. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?
  5. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  6. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  3. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  4. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us