ETF demands immediate action to end exploitation of third-country drivers in Europe

18 Apr 2023

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) welcomes the messages conveyed by MEPs, the Council and the Commission during the plenary session of the European Parliament today on the topic of Safeguarding labour mobility and social rights of striking lorry drivers from third countries. Action must follow words, with all relevant actors working together to end the exploitation of third-country drivers and ensure that social rights are protected and enforced throughout the EU.

For over two weeks, truck drivers have been on strike at the Gräfenhausen rest area near Frankfurt, Germany, and have vowed not to budge until they are properly paid. These drivers, mainly from Uzbekistan and Georgia, have been forced into working long hours exclusively living in their trucks and pressured into unsafe practices. The company they work for, the Polish consortium Lukmaz, Agmaz, and Imperia, works in the supply chain of major corporations. The strike highlights the dire state of the European road transport industry and brings to attention the harsh realities faced by third-country nationals working in this sector.

The ETF agrees with the Council that it is critical to step up enforcement of the rules that apply to road transport to ensure that social rights are adequately implemented and enforced. The Commission stated that there are not two categories of drivers in the EU, and third-country nationals must benefit from social legislation fully. On the Commission’s call for better cross-border enforcement, the ETF emphasises the role of the European Labour Authority (ELA) in ensuring that rules are followed across Member States.

We agree that it is unacceptable that there are truck drivers who don’t receive their pay for months and that the proper implementation and strong enforcement of the Mobility Package will play a critical role. As put by European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, it is time to get this sector in order.

MEP Gabriele Bischoff, who was at the strike site with the ETF yesterday in support of drivers, emphasised that if Europe relies on the labour of these drivers, we owe them decent working conditions and fair pay. The ETF also acknowledges the statement made by Left MEP Özlem Demirel, emphasising that the strike is not an individual case but rather one of the numerous symptoms of a systemic problem in the road transport industry in Europe.

The existing business model for road transport is conducive to the violation of workers’ and human rights. Multinational companies turn a blind eye to the inhumane working conditions in their supply chains in the name of maximising profits, and it is time to hold them responsible as well.

The ETF condemns the exploitation of the most vulnerable through discriminatory conditions faced by third-country nationals in Europe. We urge all relevant actors to work together to end the exploitation of third-country drivers and ensure that social rights are protected and enforced across the EU.

Yesterday, ETF visited drivers at the strike site and can only confirm the dire situation, which must be remedied immediately and prevented in the future.

To this end, it is crucial to ensure Member States enforce the Mobility Package, utilise ELA’s role and mandate through cross-border and joint inspections, and for the Commission to take legal and other measures to assess and improve the working conditions of third-country nationals.