Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund

20.02.2024

Pensioner at 50 after work injury

Ernte

Fair mobility

By Anna Debreczeni

Stefan is a Romanian posted worker, who got seriously injured during his work as a tree cutter in Germany. As a result, he can no longer do physical work in his life. His case shows that it is essential to have social security documentation in order when going abroad as a posted worker, because anything can happen.

„Stefan had a valid employment contract with a Romanian company, that posted him, when the work accident happened in January 2022, in Thuringia in Germany”, said Mirela Caravan, the head of international department at BNS, Romania’s second largest trade union confederation and consultant within the Fair European Labour Mobility project. His injury was severe: he got a spine fracture and his lung was perforated.

Fake document

At this time, he was already working for that company for 1,5 years. But this accident revealed, that his status as a posted worker - and his eligibility for accident insurance - was not at all clear in Germany. Also, his Romanian employer didn’t register the accident at the Romanian authorities, as it would have been necessary.

Stefan was initially treated at the German hospital on his own account, because he did not have a valid A1 certificate (the official posting document). He therefore had to fear that he would be left with the costs.

When it became clear, that he’ll no longer be able to work, his employer sent him back to Romania, but did not cover his pending rent and medical bills in Germany, that was a financial pressure on Stefan.

Reaching out

At one point, Stefan called the BNS, and spoke with Mirela. She then contacted Fair Mobility in Germany, where they helped solving Stefan’s case on the German side. They checked if the accident was properly recorded as work accident in Germany, and helped Stefan with the communication with DVUA (German Liaison Centre for Accident Insurance - Foreign Countries) for the hospital cost recovery.

At first, Stefan was afraid, that the German hospital will make him pay thousands of euros for his treatment, so he was willing to go to the police with that fake A1 document. He also wanted an apology for what happened. In order to take these steps, he would have needed a lawyer, as he was no longer living or working in Germany.

But then the Romanian employer appeased him, gave him some money and – after the pressure from BNS - requested the proper posting documents from the Romanian authorities retroactively, and recorded the work accident according to the national legislation.

After this, Stefan no longer wanted to make a complaint at the police or lodge a lawsuit against his employer. He is currently aiming at retirement even though he is not even 50 years old.

Bureaucracy issues

Mirela contacted the national authorities in Romania and checked whether the posting procedures were being followed. She contacted the Romanian Labour Inspectorate and the Pension Agency to inform them about the case.

BNS urged these institutions to look into the case, bringing to their attention that the work accident was recorded in Germany but not in Romania and therefore, the Labour inspectorate was not able to issue the report of the accident for the Pension Agency.

As mentioned above, only following BNS’s pressure the Romanian employer issued a retroactive posting document for Stefan. The work accident was eventually registered in Romania.

The medical bills, which Stefan was worried about, were payed by the Romanian state, during a procedure where the states are regulating such medical costs among themselves based on specific documents.

Amiable solution

According to Mirela, it is common that workers try to find an amiable solution in the end, even when they are only narrowly compensated for their work and rights.

”The lawsuits are taking years, the costs can be high for the workers, the labour inspectors can be corrupt and people do not trust the system in general. So they are glad if the employer pays at least some part of the amount due”, she explained.


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