Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund

Traineeships

 

For an efficient cooperation within the network of information centres it is crucial that the counsellors and other stakeholders have the possibility for a transnational exchange. Therefore, one important activity of our project are expert traineeships. Counsellors and other stakeholders visit their counterparts or other institutions in the respective countries. On this joint work visits they exchange best practices with the host organizations, join the host counsellors in consultations, information events and visits to companies where posted workers are employed or to accommodations of posted workers. Also they visit government bodies or participate on workshops or conferences on posting together in order to help raise awareness on posting.

 

Traineeship in Romania | June 2023

Anna Weirich, Faire Mobilität, Counseller for Romanian Frankfurt am Main, coordinator international road transport, visited colleagues in Romania:

 

I Bucharest: Truck Drivers’ Salaries and Allowances; Social Dialogue in RO - @BNS, German Embassy and Labour Inspection (19th & 20th June)

One of the main aims of this traineeship was to learn more about the legal provisions for payment of salaries and allowances to drivers with Romanian work contracts who are being posted to Germany (and other European countries, “spre comunitate” (“in the community”) as Romanian speakers in the business tend to say). These topics were discussed in detail during meetings with Ruxandra Empen (referent for social affairs at the German Embassy), Mirela Caravan at the Blocul National Sindical and Larisa Papp at the Labour Inspection.

Background “Allowances model”: Drivers who have working contracts with Romanian hauliers and drive in Germany do so within the framework of the freedom to provide services and are considered posted workers under certain conditions. Romanian trucks with Romanian drivers transport freight on behalf of large logistics companies from Germany, France or Belgium: and this with poor pay, unpaid overtime and high time pressure. According to the German Minimum Wage Act and the Posting of Workers Directive, they are actually entitled to the higher minimum wages of the respective countries of assignment. However, the majority of drivers report that the logistics companies circumvent the minimum wage of the countries of assignment by treating allowances as part of the minimum wage. According to German and European law, allowances are earmarked: they are being paid in order to cover occurring costs during work abroad . For this reason, they may not be offset against the gross minimum wage. Nevertheless, there are numerous recommendations to this effect from accounting offices based in Eastern European countries as well as business associations that calculate that this accounting practice will not be criticised by customs in Germany during inspections. In reality, the drivers can only enforce their claim to the German minimum wage if they claim it retroactively in court. By means of the “allowances model”, companies save taxes and pay only small social security contributions into the social security funds for these employment relationships. Drivers receive only a fraction of their monthly salary when they are sick, as sick pay is only paid at the level of the Eastern European minimum wage and they are not entitled to expenses during these periods.

 The results of these discussions have been summarized by the trainee in a document that can be put at the disposition of Romanian speaking counsellers of Faire Mobilität and its cooperation partners.

Traineeship Romania

DGB

 Summary

• The Romanian Labour Code guarantees outgoing posted workers a right to the reimbursement of transportation and accommodation costs

 • No specified amounts: It does however not specify minimum or maximum amounts. This is object to bilateral negotiations (between employer and employees).

• No collective agreements of the host state or the state of origin: These could be laid down in collective agreements but no such exist for road transport, neither in Romania nor Germany.

• In line with EU Posting Guideline, Romanian law stipulates that allowances can be considered as part of the minimum wage in case they are not paid in order to reimburse transportation and accommodation costs.

• However, if employers/employees cannot proof that or which part of the allowances are reimbursements of travel and accommodation costs ALL allowances have to be considered as serving this purpose (and can therefore not be counted into the minimum wage)

• Pay slips non-obligatory: For Romanian employers it is not obligatory to distribute payslips every month. However, the employee has a right to receive them upon request.

• Act aditional: In case of posting, an additional agreement (to the work contract) has to be laid down in written, which is considered as part of the work contract.

• Control: The Romanian labour inspection has direct access to all labour contracts. It does not automatically have access to the additional agreements, but can request them. The Labour Inspection is not responsible for controlling whether minimum wages have been paid in accordance to the rules of the host state. The host state would have to control this.

Romanian road haulage associations and employers’ organisations have been pressing for clarification of legal provisions in Germany on the hight of allowances for transport, accommodation and meals for Romanian truck drivers for several years. They are opposed to the rules of the Mobility Package and have a huge lobbying weight for governmental decisions because logistics contributes a large part to the Romanian GDP. This might be one of the reasons why the Transport workers’ Union’s attempts to push for a “ordonanta de urgenta” (that could fill in the gap of an unexciting collective contract) have been unsuccessful.

From the German embassy I also learned that “lack of drivers” is a topic in Romania as well. According to the embassy’s information, there are about 250.000 Romanian drivers, of which 200.000 are driving for foreign countries abroad. Romanian employers claim they could employ another 70.000 drivers (probably this includes posting to other European countries). This leads to claims of reducing the age for a qualification as professional driver (atestat de competente profesionale) to 18 and easier possibilities to employ 3rd country nationals. Currently these have to deliver proof of two months of driving experience in Romania and recognition of their drivers’ licence (according to the embassy’s information a Romanian truck drivers’ licence costs about €1500-2000).

 

II Târgu Mures: Driver Fatigue, Social Dumping & Letter Box Companies, Social Dialogue and Union Busting @SLT (21st -23rd June)

The grade of organisation of truck drivers in unions is relatively low. Last year (2022) a new law on social dialogue has been voted that slightly improves the conditions (freedom of reunion, founding of unions). In Romania, unions can be founded as company union or as member Union. SLT was founded as a company union within Stadler, Targu Mures, more than 10 years ago but has continued and intensified its activities beyond the shut down of Stadler in Romania. It has now members from different companies. It both seeks to acquire individual members but also strives for representativity in key companies. In Romania, currently 10 members from the same company (or 20 from different companies) are needed to found a union[1] , 53% of the employees of a company have to be part of the same union for the latter to have the right to juridicial representation. This includes the mandate to negotiate collective agreements in the realm of the company. This is why a common tactics of logistics companies seems to be to set up a “sindicat galben” (false union) that closely cooperates with the management and negotiaties working conditions in their interest. Since double union membership is forbidden in Romania, forcing drivers into such a false union unfortunately is an effective way of keeping them away from “real” unions. SLT is organised in the confederation CNSLR fratia.[2] 2 SLT was provided with a short training on reading (and using) drivers’ cards data.

On Wednesday, 21st June, I participated in the ETF’s Europe wide day of driver fatigue together with SLT. We conducted an informative event for drivers at the truck stop in Ungheni and a TV team was present as well (The piece was not broadcasted yet).

On Friday, 23rd June, SLT organised an excursion to Sighisoara, where the transport company Kraft Logistic SRL has its seat.[3] It is one of the main employers of the region in transport. A union member and former employee accompanied us to explain details of their business model. The company is a letter box of the German company Kraft (Ginsheim-Gustavsburg, Hessen)[4].

Some of the Romanian drivers have German contracts. In this case they are transported via Minibus from Sighisoara to Hessen and leave their private car on the parking in Sighisoara, that was full of cars with number plates from the whole of Romania on this day as well. Some drivers have Romanian contracts. They climb on the (Romanian) trucks on parkings in Germany or other Western European companies.

[1] Art 3(3) Pentru constituirea unui sindicat este necesar un număr de cel puţin 10 angajaţi/lucrători din aceeaşi unitate sau de cel puţin 20 de angajaţi/lucrători din unităţi diferite ale aceluiaşi sector de negociere colectivă. https://usv.ro/fisiere_utilizator/file/legislatie/2023/activitate_administrativa/3b.pdf
[2] https://www.cnslr-fratia.ro/
[3] Referenz rumänisches Transportregister: https://licente.arr.ro/publica/RO21324859%20%20%20%20%20?expires=1687532361&signature=0c3108ab40 ae5b9a3125d8b4c949d2f45f2364bd59c3f7e04af72582cb8dd625
[4] Referenz BALM-Unternehmenssuche: https://www.balm.bund.de/DE/Service/EEREinzelansicht/einzelansicht_node.html?cms_idUnternehmen=1165 45667

 
Traineeship Austria | May 2023

The traineeship in Vienna took place from 23.05. to 26.5.2023 and was part of the transnational advisory project Fair European Labour Mobility (FELM). The trip was attended by Justyna Oblacewicz (FELM, Germany) and Magdalena Kossakowska (OPZZ, Poland) from Warsaw, both consultants in the project. The trip focused on the topic of domestic care, as both colleagues advise care workers who come from Poland and work in the sector in Germany. Austria was chosen as the destination country for the traineeship because it has had the Home Care Act since 2007, which regulates the labour law framework conditions for caregivers. It is important to know, however, that almost exclusively self-employed care workers work in Austria, but they are covered by social insurance. The state pays a subsidy depending on the form of employment; in the case of two self-employed caregivers, it is 640 EUR per person. Since the Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht BAG) ruling of 24 June 2002 (BAG, 5 AZR 505/20), which strengthened the rights of a Bulgarian caregiver by stating that on-call time must also be remunerated at the German minimum wage, a social and political debate has flared up in Germany about a legally secure solution for Germany. The aim of the trip to Vienna was to get to know the so-called Austrian model better and to understand its advantages as well as the criticism of it.

On the day of arrival, 23.05., the first meeting with the lobby group for caregivers IG24 took place. IG24 "is a self-organised, non-partisan association supported by activists with the aim of representing the interests of the professional group in a comprehensive way. We no longer want to be talked about and we want to speak for ourselves." The members of IG24 are staunch opponents of the self-employed model in Austria, as they consider it to be a bogus self-employment and highly exploitative for caregivers. During the meeting, we had the criticism of the model explained to us in more detail, as well as the working methods of the interest group, which carries out both legal measures and collective publicity campaigns to improve the situation of care workers.

The following morning (24.05.) a meeting took place with Isabella Ourny from the International Department at the ÖGB. The colleague presented the brochure hot off the press on the structure of trade union representation in Austria and explained the difference between the Chamber of Labour and the individual trade unions of the ÖGB, which however work in close partnership.

In the afternoon, there was an intensive exchange with colleagues Martina Lackner and Emil Grula, both concerned with the issue of home care. During the meeting, the Home Care Act and its origins, the care system and its services as well as the critical positions of the ÖGB on both were presented. The colleagues stated that over time they had softened their strict stance on the law and its abolition and were now campaigning to bring about positive changes in the law. They consider the abolition of the self-employed model unrealistic.

After the lunch break, we met with our colleague David Doppelbauer from the ÖGB. David works in the FELM project and has been significantly responsible for organising the meetings with the individual actors in Vienna. David showed us his workplace and gave us a tour of the trade union building. Immediately afterwards, our colleague Martina Lackner took us to a dialogue event organised by Amnesty International. This was already the third meeting where all the main stakeholders from Austria working on the issue of doemstic care sat around the table and worked out a common agenda on how to improve the working conditions of home care workers. Representatives included the Chamber of Labour, Ministry of Labour, IG24, ÖGB, Amnesty International. The dialogue was initiated by Amnesty International in 2022 as a follow-up to a campaign for fair working conditions in 24-hour care.

On Thursday afternoon (25.05.) we visited the organisation Hilfswerk, "a non-profit, social organisation active in the field of mobile care and social services, child care as well as assistance for the homeless and refugees. It operates day centres for senior citizens, senior housing communities, neighbourhood centres, leisure facilities for people with and without disabilities as well as social markets. Wiener Hilfswerk employs more than 2,000 full-time and voluntary workers. In addition to the above-mentioned services, Hilfswerk also provides home carers. As a non-profit provider, Hilfswerk says it is characterised by transparency and good quality. On the one hand, with regard to the cost structure of the service for the clients, and on the other hand, with regard to the selection and care of the caregivers themselves. We also talked about the requirements for working as a home carer.  Nevertheless, Hilfswerk only places self-employed caregivers, only these are requested.

On the last day of the trip (26.05.) we met with two mother-tongue counsellors at the ÖGB, Plamadeala Radu and Nikolova Blagovesta, who provide counselling in Bulgarian, Romanian and Russian for workers who have labour law problems and are not (yet) trade union members. Before the trade union initiative vidaflex took over the representation of the self-employed care workers, quite a few of them first found their way to the two colleagues.  It turned out that the problems of the mobile workers are very similar to those of the counselling centres in Germany, such as Faire Mobilität.

The meeting with Christoph Lipinski from Vidaflex also marked the end of the traineeship. Vidaflex emerged from the service sector trade union vida and "is Europe's first trade union initiative to offer an all-round service package for one-person entrepreneurs, small businesses with up to four employees, freelancers and start-ups". As home carers are the largest group of solo self-employed in Austria, vidaflex focuses a large part of the services offered on the needs of this target group.  The spectrum of services is very diverse and ranges from setting up a bank account, legal protection and accident insurance to reduced-price housing and even educational offers. Controversial is the company's own placement activity for home carers, which started at the end of 2022. In this context, vidafex pursues the approach that, above all, as an independent market participant, they can achieve better working conditions for the caregivers. This understanding of their role is admittedly very unconventional for a trade union and not uncontroversial even within their own ranks.

 

 Delegation to Warsaw | October 2022
 

From 10 to 14 October 2022, the counsellors and the head of the Fair Mobility counselling network took part in a traineeship in Warsaw.

Workers from Poland are the largest group of workers seeking advice from Fair Mobility. They very often work in the home care, road transport, construction, seasonal agriculture and meat sectors. Many of them are posted workers.

The main aim of the traineeship was to network with different institutions in Poland that are relevant for counselling and to exchange knowledge about working conditions. For this reason, institutions such as the Insurance Fund (ZUS), the Labour Inspectorate (PIP), the National Health Fund (NFZ) and others were visited. All visits to institutions focused on the exchange of information about problems faced by workers in Poland and Germany, as well as the establishment of active cooperation. Contacts with the Polish trade unions OPZZ and Solidarność were also strengthened and deepened.

Traineeship Warsaw

Traineeship Warsaw DGB

 

 Traineeship visit in Nuremberg and Munich| July 2022

 

DGB

DGB

DGB

As part of the project „Fair European Labour Mobility“, FELM, David Doppelbauer went to Nuremberg and Munich from 12.07.2022 to 15.07.2022 to carry out a traineeship. The aim of the trip and the traineeship was to visit the existing Fair Mobility counselling centres in these cities in order to gain a good insight into the counselling offered by Fair Mobility, to exchange ideas with the counsellors on how to make adviceseekers aware of the service and to gain experience, helpful tips and suggestions on how to set up a counselling centre and counselling network.

 

 

David Doppelbauer went first on the 13.07.2022. with Iulia Lavric, a consultant of Fair Mobility from Nuremberg to Landshut and supported the NGG (NGG managing director Lower Bavaria Kurt Haberl, NGG secretary Michael Schweiger) at an action at the poultry producer Wiesenhof in Bogen. On site they informed the workers about their rights, the status of the current collective agreement negotiations and the planned further procedure. They distributed more than 450 leaflefts in Romanian, German and English. During this action he noticed and became aware of how important it is for the counselling work to speak the mother tongue of the workers. He could not communicate with the majority of the workers of the poultry producer Wiesenhof, who only spoke Romanian, but only the Romanian-speaking counsellor Iulia Lavric. It was noticeable that speaking the mother tongue created a connection between the counsellor and the workers and subsequently led to familiarity, security and open communication.

In the afternoon/evening, after the successful action, he took part in a very exciting public panel discussion. Besides Mr. Stefan Körzell, member of the federal executive board of the DGB, representatives of different social organisations took part. The topic was how, in such difficult times as these, the rights of workers can be sufficiently strengthened and how there can be a socially just distribution.

The next day he brainstormed with the colleagues of the counselling centre of Fair Mobility in Nuremberg, with Iulia Lavric, Marius Hanganu and Oskar Brabanski about a concept of how to set up a counselling centre or counselling network and what to pay attention to. He benefited in particularly from Oskar's and Marius' experience, who had set up the counselling centre in Nuremberg together. A little later, there was an online question time with the lawyer from Faire Mobilität, which gave him a good insight into the legal questions that arise in the context of counselling.

On the last day of his traineeship David Doppelbauer visited Nadja Kluge, advisor and lawyer, at the Fair Mobility advice centre in Munich. They discussed the implementation of the Posting of Workers Directive in Germany and Austria and the (legal) problems that exist for posted and hired out workers and afterwards Nadja presented him various counselling cases and practical tips.  He attended on several live counselling sessions as well. There were three workers with different labour legal problems (dismissal, minimum wage, leave, transfer, fixed-term contracts, to name just a few) who was consulted by Nadia. During this personal counselling, he noticed again that speaking the mother tongue is crucial. After the three counselling appointments, they exchanged views on the topic of data protection.

In summary, his traineeship was a full success. The set goals were all achieved; they were even exceeded. Apart from a good insight into counselling work, numerous recommendations and tips on how to set up a counselling centre and counselling network, the exchange on how to draw the attention of adviseseekers to the services offered was very helpful and instructive for his future work. In addition there was also good networking with Fair Mobility staff, which he would like to build on.