28th May 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.


What a Spanish novelist can teach us about communality

In a world where cultural clashes and sectarianism seems to be on the increase, Spanish novelist Javier Cercas (b.1962) takes the opposite approach. He cherishes both life in the big city and in the countryside.

Latest News

  1. How the EU's money for waste went to waste in Lebanon
  2. EU criminal complicity in Libya needs recognition, says expert
  3. Europe's missing mails
  4. MEPs to urge block on Hungary taking EU presidency in 2024
  5. PFAS 'forever chemicals' cost society €16 trillion a year
  6. EU will 'react as appropriate' to Russian nukes in Belarus
  7. The EU needs to foster tech — not just regulate it
  8. EU: national energy price-spike measures should end this year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us