Polish workers exploited abroad

Early this week, Bartosz Wielinski, a reporter at Gazeta Wyborcza, published an article that maintains that Poles are being exploited at the slaughterhouse of the German company Tönnies Fleischwerk GmbH & Co. in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Germany. The EU continues to push members to fully implement the free movement of goods, capital, workers and services across members? national borders.

However, steps towards the liberalization of trade in services can lead to worker exploitation.

Many German companies recruit employees from lower-wage nations such as Poland. And they pay the migrants far less than Germany?s minimum wage.
A lot of Poles head abroad hoping for a new start. Most are not fully aware of the working conditions and other challenges that sometimes await them. Once they get to their new jobs, if there is a problem, they often have difficulty coping with it because of the language barrier.

Some of the workers said recruiters in Poland told them they would get 1,000 euro a month for eight hours of work a day. They get the 1,000 euro, all right — but for 12-hour shifts, 7 days a week.

That works out to a flat 3.5 euro an hour. They receive no overtime for working beyond 40 hours. Many workers aren?t properly registered with Immigration, their living conditions are poor and they don?t have health insurance. In addition, they haven?t been trained to work in a slaughterhouse.

Before coming to Germany, they signed a contract with the Polish agent IRC Czuprynscy and Argo Visbek. But the contract had nothing about what they would earn or how many hours they would work.

In addition to the wage and workload problem, the slaughterhouse was very cold — to help preserve the meat. The workers received no clothes to ward off the cold ? only shoes and an apron. They had to buy the rest of the warm clothes they needed. The Polish worked a hard overnight shift, from 18:00 to 06:00. They were supposed to reach three 1-hour breaks, but received only two breaks of 30 minutes each.
If a worker made a mistake, he could be penalized 50 euro.

Poles who work in the slaughterhouse are exhausted and not respected as human beings, the newspaper said. Poles are not the only nationality in this situation, however. Portuguese and Romanians are also there.

Tönnies Fleischwerk GmbH & Co is not the only German company which exploits Poles, according to the newspaper. Poles working for Stute Nahrungsmittelwerke in Paderborn, one of the biggest food processing concerns in Europe, report similar conditions. Immigrant expoitation is common worldwide. The International Labor Organization estimates that more than 12 million people are victims of ?modern-day slavery.?? Consumers want to buy products at the lowest possible price. Most are unaware that many products they buy were processed by exploited migrant workers far from family and home.

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