Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund

19.02.2024

Story of a truck driver claiming 20,000 euros of unpaid wage - Interview with Marko Tanasić

transnational cases

Marko T._ZSSS

By Anna Debreczeni

 

A Serbian truck driver was given Slovenian minimum wage for two years while he worked mainly in Germany. He is now eligible for more than 20,000 euros as missing wage, which he is claiming with the help of Marko Tanasić, a colleague of the Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia (Zveza Svobodnih Sindikatov Slovenije).

Now Marko tells us the whole story, which stands out because of the large sum involved, while the circumstances are common for truck drivers working internationally.

 

When and how did the case start?

A Serbian truck driver - let’s call him Boris – was employed by a Slovenian company. He contacted me at the Association in 2022 because his last salary was missing. We managed to claim it from the employer, but I was surprised to see that he received the Slovenian minimum wage – while working in Germany - so I calculated the difference to the German minimum wage for the entire period.

In the end, he was eligible for a 18,610 euro gross salary for 30 months and 5500 euro net transport costs for the period from January 2019 until October 2022.

 

How did you manage to calculate the missing wages? From the tachograph data? If yes, who kept this data: the Slovenian company, the driver, or both?

In this case, we used both Boris’ documents (copies of business trip records, pay slips and bank statements) as well as the tachograph data, which the employer provided at my request.

In accordance with the regulations and laws, transport companies are obliged to record and keep all the prescribed proofs of completed transports, including tachographic data. Nevertheless, we always advise drivers to make and keep their own register of this data (to download tachograph data from their drivers' cards every 6 to maximum 8 months, to copy CMRs and evidences of transports - trips, to keep payslips, photos, copies of electronic conversations, to make written notes and any other proof). All of the above can be key elements when it comes to enforcing drivers' rights, as it's in this case.

 

What did the emoployer react when confronted with these amounts?

The former employer refused this and ignored the demands to hand over Boris’ working time records. But in principle, it is possible to claim this in court for up to 5 years. Boris could also file a complaint to the court in Slovenia against his former Slovenian employer with the support of the trade union. First, however, all means for an out-of-court solution will be tried.

However, in this case, we are holding liable both the Slovenian and the German company involved.

 

How does the Germany company enter the picture?

In international road transport there is a subcontracting chain. Freight forwarders organise the transport, they are the general contractors, in other words, the principals. Freight forwarders hire a contractor, or carrier to carry out the transport. Carriers are usually providing the tractor units and they are employing the truck drivers. All these actors may have their headquarters in different countries.

The German company, as the freigh forwarder, has to guarantee at least the German net minimum wage. It still needs to be clarified whether the German company is the actual employer of Boris - because the work was carried out mainly in Germany -, or Boris worked in Germany as a posted worker. I think we have strong evidence for both options.

 

What does the German freight forwarder has tho say about the case?

We have demanded from the German company to pay the minimum wage for Boris. After this, the company contacted a lawyer and we are currently waiting for a response from the lawyer. Of course, we are also trying this out of court first. If neither of the two companies moves, we can also file a lawsuit against the freight forwarder in Germany.

 

What is the biggest challenge in these cases?

It is very time-consuming and challenging to decipher these complicated structures and to demand the rights of the drivers.

In this case, for example, two countries and three languages are involved. We need someone in Slovenia who understands the Slovenian papers and can classify them legally, contact social security agencies, contact the labour inspectorate if necessary, file a complaint with a Slovenian court. Then we need a translator, because Boris, the driver is Serbian. We also need someone who speaks German to find out information about the German freight forwarder and someone who is familiar with German labour law. We also need a person who is fluent enough in business German to assert the driver's claims in writing in Germany and, if necessary, to support the driver in negotiations with the German company.

In other words, we need to be as transnational as the business model, otherwise we won't be able to keep up. We have to offer transnational counselling, in this case with our FELM-counselling centre in Slovenia and the DGB counseling network Faire Mobilität in Germany.

 

What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation?

As I mentioned earlier, I advice them to be careful and always make their own register of evidences: copies of transport documents, tachograph data, written notices, screenshots or downloads of all correspondence related to their work.

And at last but not least, we advise them to ensure regular counseling and information and legal assistance as soon as possible, preferably upon starting the employment. The best way to do this is to join a union and act according to the instructions of the union's counsellors. In my experience, it is hard to find such experienced and motivated professionals anywhere else.


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