GERMANY - Foreign Workers Exploited

Arno Froese

“I will never go back to Germany, not even for a holiday,” Mariana Costea, a seasonal worker from Romania, told DW. She spent two months toiling away on a Bavarian farm until she decided that was all she could take. Mariana was forced to work unpaid overtime, had to sleep in filthy dorms, and was at risk of contracting the coronavirus—as no safety precautions were in place.

Costea is one of many Eastern Europeans seasonal workers who have recently spoke out about the catastrophic working and living conditions they have endured in Germany. They have recounted harrowing experiences as meat processing plant workers, delivery men and women, caregivers, construction workers and seasonal farmhands. Yet much of this has been known for years, as German Labor Minister Hubertus Heil openly acknowledged at a recent press conference in Berlin. The difference, however, is that the pandemic has made it impossible to ignore this situation.

Alex, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, told DW about his experience of spending two years working for Tönnies, Germany’s biggest meat producer. He fears he could face serious consequences if anyone learns his identity. “They made us work between 10 and 13 hours a day, instead of 8 hours with a 45-minute break,” he told DW. “It was exhausting, and psychologically draining.”

Federal prosecutors are now taking legal action against the company and numerous subcontractors accused of violating Germany’s law on the prevention and control of infectious diseases.

There are many subcontractors and recruitments agencies that supply laborers to German companies. Keeping tabs on how they treat the workers and house them, however, is difficult.

After news broke of soaring coronavirus infections at German farms and meat processing plants due to dismal working and housing conditions, German lawmakers were forced to act. They plan to outlaw the practice of subcontracted laborers in the meat industry by January 1, 2021. From then on, companies will have to directly employ all their workers.

Labor Minister Hubertus Heil has tabled a bill that will be debated and, potentially, adopted after parliament’s summer recess. It is unclear, however, why this measure will only be applied to Germany’s meat industry.

Heil told DW: “There are areas where labor standards need to be monitored; we will raise the standards so we have more influence on crucial sectors.”

“There are other areas in which it is about workplace safety inspections. Those (inspections) will be increased mandatorily so that we can go into vulnerable areas more frequently.”, 29 July 2020

Arno's commentary

Germany, which prides itself on having the highest level of workers’ rights, compensation, and fairness for all, is now exposed by its practice of subcontracting jobs to avoid direct responsibility. 

Minimum holiday/vacation entitlement for standard workers is 24 working days per year. This entitlement starts when an employee has been on the job for at least 6 months. 

German law requires that employees be paid 100% of their salary or wages by their employer during the first 6 weeks of sickness. These laws are quite amazing, guaranteeing 6-week sick pay and almost 5 weeks of holiday. Yet, quite apparently, this has not been implemented where foreign workers are concerned. 

Here James 5:4-5 is applicable: “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.”

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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