Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund

20.02.2024

Serbian construction workers on a building site in Baden-Württemberg successfully fight for their wages

Projektpartner bei der aufsuchenden Beratung

Katarina Pejic

By Anna Anna Debreczeni

This also happens in counselling work - a complete success. The outstanding wages of 11 Serbian construction workers who were working for Baugigant (all names changed by companies involved) on the construction site of the car park project in Backnang (Baden-Württemberg) have been paid.

After working for almost two months, the construction workers were suddenly told to gather their belongings and leave the construction site at the end of May 2023 on the instructions of their employer for no apparent reason. The workers had worked for Baugigant in April and May 2023 and were waiting for their wages of around EUR 25,000 gross in total. Actually, the wages were always supposed to be paid at the end of the month, but the employer kept inventing new excuses and never paid them. When the construction workers had to leave the construction site, they did not receive a written notice of termination and their work documents were still in the hands of the employer. They were effectively left on the street with nothing.

The group turned to Faire Mobilität in Stuttgart. There they were able to speak to a counsellor in their native language, Serbian, and describe the situation.

In coordination with the construction workers, the consultant contacted the employer, Baugigant, as well as the other companies in the subcontractor chain. Baugigant was hired by a company from Grafenberg in Baden-Württemberg, which in turn was hired by the general contractor based in Bavaria. This created a multi-link chain of subcontractors - a common practice in the construction industry. And the longer the chain, the more precarious the working conditions in the lower levels.

Through cooperation with the "Fair European Labour Mobility (FELM)" project, contact was established with the construction trade union responsible in Serbia, which filed a complaint against Baugigant with the labour inspectorate in Serbia based on the information from Germany.

In Germany, the Serbian-speaking counsellor from the DGB Faire Mobilität Counselling Network supported the construction workers in claiming the outstanding wages from the employer and the companies involved. It was particularly helpful and important that the construction workers from Serbia had recorded their working hours and were therefore able to provide proof of this. However, neither the employer nor the subcontractors paid. They initially shifted the responsibility to each other. So the workers made their claims to the general contractor. In cases where the direct contractor does not pay for unpaid wages, the so-called general contractor liability applies. This means that the general contractor is responsible for the minimum net wages. After several negotiations and several weeks later, the general contractor and a subcontractor finally took responsibility: they not only accepted their legal liability for the minimum wage, but also paid the entire amount of the wages guaranteed in the contract.


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