Much too late is now being excitedly tested. But evil is the coercive instrument of fraudulent contracts: they must finally be declared illegal. One of the highest risk groups – it was completely ignored in all drastic countermeasures. Suddenly, out of the blue, it is now known: in more and more slaughterhouses in Germany, Eastern European contract workers are extremely frequently infected by the Corona Virus. Suddenly slaughterhouses are closed. Suddenly, the state government wants to test the 20,000 employees in all meat companies in NRW and also wants to control their cramped mass accommodation.
Within a few days, high infection rates became known: at the Westfleisch group in Coesfeld/Münsterland 129 infected out of 1,200 employees, 150 infected out of 1,200 employees at the Oer-Erkenschwick plant. 300 infected under 1,100 employees at Müller Fleisch in Pforzheim / Baden-Württemberg. 49 infected at the first attempt at the plant in Bad Bramstedt/Schleswig-Holstein of the Dutch slaughter company Vion, the largest in Europe. And so on. Several plants have been temporarily closed. The state government of Schleswig-Holstein also wants to test all meat workers – whether this is really done is unclear, because the authorities first deal with the six large slaughterhouses, driven by the media, the 44 smaller ones are in the shade. Through a press release of the federal government in Saxony-Anhalt, the local government woke up and now wants to quickly test all 2,500 employees of the Tönnies plant in Weißenfels. Although 20,000 pigs are disassembled by Eastern European plant contractors every day, this has not been an issue so far.
Böklunder sausages: systemically important in the corona crisis
And how credible are the virus fighters? Previously, they declared meat production to be “systemically important”: the migrant workers were driven to even more special shifts uncontrolled and unprotected.
Clemens Tönnies, the main owner of the largest pig slaughter company in Germany and Europe, the Tönnies Holding, expressly praises that he has been classified as “systemically relevant”. The Böklunder sausages in the glass of Tönnies: system relevant. “Corona has increased the demand for our meat products by a third. We are looking for 100 temporary helpers at short notice, " he explained. He was proud to announce in the Handelsblatt: my “employees” now push an additional 16-hour shifts on weekends.
The risk group: entrepreneurs and authorities look away
The meat cutters belong to one of the highest risk groups. This results from a combination of risk situations. This became clear early on in the USA: the exploited plant contractors – African Americans, Latinos, Nepalese, refugees from Asia and South America – in the meat factories of Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods & Co are disproportionately infected and die particularly frequently. In the first attempt, 16 percent of the 3,700 workers at Smithfield’s 3-shift meat plant in South Dakota were found to be infected.
Work: Tight and stressful
The contractors often work shoulder to shoulder. They work under cool temperatures, but the air is constantly exchanged. The work is exhausting, the time pressure is extremely high, the shifts can sometimes take 16 hours and even exceed that. The bodies are weakened, physically attacked. Breaks are not always observed. That is why most of the Eastern European plant contract workers endure the Stress only between two and four years and are then sent back by the plant contract companies to Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Moldova and Ukraine, whether sick or healthy.
This health hazard and weakening of the body at work has been going on in Germany since the 1990s. In the first major investigation by the NRW Ministry of labour in 2019-half a year before Corona – the following frequently recurring breaches of law, practices and consequences were found in 30 NRW large enterprises with 17,000 employees: “5,800 violations of Working Time”, “inappropriate wage deductions”, “unworthy accommodations”, “inadequate Occupational Safety”, “shifts with more than 16 hours”, “non – observed rest periods”, “noise-related hearing damage”, “remote protective facilities”, “completed emergency exits”, “dangerous handling of hazardous substances”. The report was published in January 2020. The authorities were thus informed about the risk group from their own point of view well before “Corona”.
However, the report complicitly does not mention the names of corporations and their numerous subcontractors. No prosecution was informed.
Because of “Corona”: even more work!
Because the EU states closed their borders to each other because of “Corona”, the exchange and replenishment of the stressed low-wage workers could not be organized as quickly as usual. Because animal slaughter was declared “systemically important” by the state pandemic fighters and because Tönnies & Co happily seized the opportunity, the work was further intensified.
Tight Mass Accommodation
The risk of infection arises not only in the work situation. As a rule, the contractors are accommodated in narrow multi-bed rooms. Six to eight workers on 30 square meters, with common kitchen and common scarce sanitary facilities. Because the subcontractors who rent the accommodation want to earn as much as possible, the standard of facilities and Hygiene remains at the lowest level.
Daily transport back and forth in minibuses
The slaughterhouses are located in the city, the mass shelters are mostly located in rural areas. This is how the plant contractors of Anhalter Fleischwaren GmbH live in Zerbst-part of the Tönnies group’s Mühlen Group-20 kilometres away in Dessau. The rents paid by the subcontractor are cheaper. And workers remain invisible to consumers, to the urban public and to the authorities. That is why the workers are transported back and forth in minibuses every day, sitting closely next to each other.
Police, customs, trade inspection, Health Office: organized look away!
The company bosses and the authorities avoided testing for as long as possible, even if employees showed typical Corona diseases. The police, who in the urban public with high precision control the distance in Parks, streets and shops and impose fines – they did not come by any slaughterhouse. Also the customs, the trade inspection (responsible for Occupational Safety), the health offices – nobody came by. Therefore, when it was impossible to avoid: “many of the residents were happy that one has finally been tested, so that one has certainty whether one is positive. Interestingly, many were symptomatic. In other words, they had expressed the signs of Corona disease,” explained Torsten Wendt, district administrator of Steinburg district, responsible for the Vion slaughterhouse in Bad Bramstedt and the accommodation of the meat cutters in Kellinghusen.
Leitkultur Bayern: look even further away now!
By the way: at the strict Corona-Ober-Kommandeur Markus Söder – in the slaughterhouses of Bavaria is also now not tested. There have been no “outbreak situations” so far, the Bavarian Ministry of Health informs.
He who does not seek finds nothing. For the authorities of the most Christian Free State equipped with the Christian cross, the comfortable and undisturbed eating of cheap meat is part of the populist guiding culture, even if Christians of lower rank from Romania risk death for it.
The risk group is kept under the thumb of several practices and quietly enduring low wages and health hazards. The central Instrument is the work contract – in this case it even constitutes a breach of the law itself. This enables additional targeted, hundreds of thousands of further breaches of the law. This increases profits at Vion, Westfleisch, Müller Fleisch, Anhalter Fleischwaren, Danish Crown, Tönnies & co.
A varying proportion of employees – between 20 and 80 percent – are contract workers. They come mostly from Eastern European countries impoverished by the EU: high unemployment, lowest low and minimum wages, in Moldova 200 euros a month. Employment in rich Germany for a few years, even under conditions contrary to human rights and with separation from the family, appears as a way out.
What is a work contract?
Werkvertrag: this means the lowest labour law Status in Germany, even below temporary work:
- The workers are not employed in the company in which they work
- The workers are also not employed by a temporary agency
- The workers are employed by a works contract company, which keeps its employees in multiple dependence with agency fee, deductions for driving service, protective equipment and accommodation rental. This can undermine the minimum wage.
- There are no tariff rates for works contractors. There is no business association of works contract companies.
- Work contractors do not have to be taken over into a regular employment relationship after nine months, like temporary workers.
- Works contract companies are in principle enemies of trade unions, works councils and other forms of collective representation of the interests of employees.
- What is a “work”?
A works contract company delivers, sells to the respective Meat Company a “plant”, i.e. the slaughter and cutting of, for example, 30,000 pigs per day as in the Tönnies plant in Rheda-Wiedenbrück. For this, the works contract company must keep its own equipment, work equipment and give the work instructions to its employees, actually.
However, this is usually not the case in all appearances. The work instructions at the workplace do not appear to come from foremen or heads of the works contract company, but from the personnel employed by Westfleisch, Müller Fleisch, Vion, etc. Corona also shows that the protective measures are taken by the meat companies, if they are. They give the factory contract companies the instructions, now procure the masks, regulate layers, put down disinfecting devices, send employees to the doctor.
Permanent State Of Injustice
It appears that the construction of the work contracts is fraudulent: the work contract companies do not have their own equipment, systems and do not give any concrete work instructions. In reality, the works contract companies are not such, they mediate, so it looks, temporary workers. However, they contain their better status under Labour Law.
They cheapen and disenfranchise the employees, making them docile and extortionate. It happens that time sheets are falsified; that overtime is required, but not paid, according to the testimony of ex-employees.
However, the” works contract companies " have no license for temporary work, so they are also making themselves punishable here, for decades. But will not be punished. Due to decades of practice and toleration by the commissioning meat companies, one can assume that they are aiding and abetting a criminal offence.
The public knows so little about the details, because even the most active authorities do not examine the contracts so far. Now with “Corona”, only because it has become unavoidable, the risk of contagion is examined to some extent. But even in its investigations in the meat industry for the first time in 2019, the Labor Ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia did not pursue the (Un)legality of the work contracts as a question.
As already mentioned, the construction of the work contracts enables widespread, repeated, sustainable violations of the law. According to all information published so far by the media and the NGG trade union and not disputed, this also includes rental usury.
For a bed in a 6-or 8-bed room, even with bunk beds, between 150 and 300 euros per month are required. The works contract mediator - he is often in fact also the landlord-deducts this from the wage. The local rental amount of a maximum of 5 euros per square meter in the rural rental areas is thus exceeded several times.
Rental usury is a criminal offence if the rental is organised “commercially” according to § 291 of the Criminal Code and the “predicament” and “inexperience” of the tenants is also exploited. But here, too, the authorities have so far failed to enforce the rule of law. In this case, too, the Christian-led NRW Ministry of Labour has not forwarded its findings to the public prosecutors or even filed a criminal complaint.
Mafia godfather Yes works Council no
With the Konstrukt Werkvertrag, the meat companies keep the employees in an additionally defenseless state. The works contract companies-Tönnies alone currently procures meat workers from 12 different such companies-are hostile to trade unions and works councils. Plant contractors have never before elected works councils in Germany and in any meat company. Join a union? Out of the question: German meat-Leitkultur!
The works contract companies are often ethnically specialized. The bosses often come from the respective ethnicity, from Poland, Romania, etc., even if they have registered their company in Germany in the meantime. In this way, employees can be more easily separated and kept under pressure in ethnically specific work and residential groups.
Who does not spurt, who wants to sue the employer, is then threatened before the accommodation by suddenly appearing thugs. Beating up is one of their tools, according to the statement of an ex-employee of Anhalter Fleischwaren GmbH in Zerbst/Saxony-Anhalt.
The meat companies are also at the forefront in avoiding legal codetermination. The joint codetermination act of 1976 (government Brandt) obliges companies from 2,000 employees to form a supervisory board in which the employees represent half of the members (however, the chairman, who mysteriously comes from the side of the entrepreneur, has the decisive vote). The third-party Participation Act of 2004 (government Schröder) establishes a supervisory board for companies with 500 or more employees, in which the employees represent at least one third of the members.
As we know, these are rather Abnicker committees. But even that is too much for hundreds of companies. They either take refuge in Societas Europaea (SE), a joint-stock company created by the European Union, which does not require any co-determination. Or the companies legally relocate their headquarters to a European financial Oasis such as the Netherlands or Luxembourg. Or companies simply ignore the laws: in the” constitutional state of Germany”, labour laws in particular may be broken sustainably and comprehensively and with impunity.
All meat companies in Germany circumvent co-determination. Although most of the companies in Germany are located, Tönnies has moved its central Holding to the letterbox company Tönnies Holding Verwaltungs ApS, without any staff present, in the Danish town of Brorup.
For example, meat workers in Germany are among the most exploited and endangered workers – but through a contract of employment and the absolute absence of works councils, trade unions and codetermination, they are at the same time the least able to defend themselves. Blackmail, fear – diseases-in the middle of the “constitutional state of Germany”.
Occupational diseases – do they still exist?
The works contract workers are subject to numerous occupational accident and health hazards. Sometimes it penetrates that there is sometimes a Finger with cut off. In Germany, there are many legal regulations. But more and more employees are sick due to work, also with increased mental illnesses such as depression, accidents on construction sites. But fewer and fewer occupational diseases are recorded and compensated.
Firstly, this is due to the professional associations. Every industry such as construction, chemistry, metal has its professional association. The meat companies are invisibly submerged in the professional association Food and hospitality industry.
The professional associations are to record occupational diseases and compensate the injured in orderly procedures, for example through early retirement. But that works less and less. Although the professional associations have a function close to the state, they are financed and dominated exclusively by the entrepreneurs, in this case the invisible meat companies. Highly paid experts defend the vast majority of lawsuits against highly scientific claims.
Secondly, the federal governments under Chancellor Merkel have essentially reduced the supervision of the professional associations and the codification of new occupational diseases, which was once established under Chancellor Brandt, and which was not particularly strict. The current EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was once Minister of Labour. Under her and the direction of her successor Olaf Scholz from the other “people’s” or entrepreneur’s party, the Department for occupational diseases in the ministry was thinned out, disempowered. Does anyone still know them?
EU promotes and tolerates labour migration, legal and illegal
The EU has contributed to this situation through its excessive promotion of labour migration, including in the meat industry. Legal, illegal, don’t give a shit.
German governments were the leaders. Between 1988 and 1995, the Kohl government with the CDU, CSU and FDP concluded bilateral “agreements on the posting of workers on the basis of work contracts"with 12 countries from Eastern Europe and Turkey. Thereafter, “contract workers” could be employed in Germany for a limited period of up to three years. The lower financial and employment Status was the guiding principle from the beginning, including health wear.
The EU translated this into directives, such as the posting of workers directive. The EU also supported Tönnies through subsidies. The lie of the shortage of skilled workers is constantly getting new food in this way. And it is well known that it is not only about the contractors in the meat industry, also about the asparagus cutters and other seasonal workers in the agricultural business, about hundreds of thousands of domestic helpers and home care workers in day and night operations, about hundreds of thousands of cheap prostitutes, legal and illegal - also leads the (UN)rule of law Germany in the EU.
By the way, on this occasion, the EU must also be refounded in this respect.
Campaign: declare the fraudulent contracts illegal!
With the corona Management of the federal and state governments, the dangers of meat workers are now also becoming clear.
Despite all the hasty worry and testing about the Virus: the coercive instrument of fraudulent contracts must be declared illegal! The subcontractors who do not have a rental license must be punished, as well as Tönnies, Vion, Westfleisch & Co for aiding and abetting!
The contractors must be put in a position to claim the fraudulently withheld wage!
The Eastern European meat cutters must be able to move freely in Germany and the EU, must be able to go to the public without fear, must be able to defend themselves, must be able to go to court, must be able to organise themselves! These are human rights! And these are European values, aren’t they?