In recent years research conducted by the Dutch trade union research and enforcement foundation FNV-VNB in collaboration with the ITF, the ETF, local trade unions and NGOs, has identified several cases of abuse on non-EU truck drivers in Europe.
This international trade union cooperation made a German company on the top of the supply chain pay Filipino drivers financial compensation as it was found that they had been exploited by their employer.
These drivers had clear indicators of being victims of human trafficking yet the authorities did not act. These group drivers were stranded in a parking area, for months they had lived in their truck cabins, but the authorities informed their employer that the drivers could start driving again even when driving and resting time regulation had been violated. Some of the Filipino drivers could not drive again because of their experiences of being exploited. Others were forced to start driving again under pressure of the company and with the authorities at the scene.
For months the Unions, NGO’s and the Filipino community provided support to Filipino truck drivers who were stranded. In the meantime FNV-VNB and “Fair Mobility” project by the German Trade Union Confederation DGB prepared civil wage claims for the drivers to at least get financial compensation.
With trade union research the supply chain of abuse was mapped out. We found that the Filipino drivers were employed in Poland where they had never driven a truck. Their habitual place of work was Germany where they were sub-contracted by a European logistics company.
Stefan Körzell as a member of the federal executive board of DGB and FNV-VNB referred this for criminal charge of wage exploitation of labour as well as forced labour and human trafficking against the involved companies.
Edwin Atema from FNV-VNB: “When we mapped out the supply chain and discovered where the inhumanity and accountability lay, we went to the German company the drivers drove for. While the German authorities did not do their job, we engaged in dialog with the company who agreed to pay the Filipino drivers. For some drivers it was big money. Cases like this make companies on the top of the supply chain aware of abuse that is often right under their nose. It is not only a good way to prevent exploitation, but also shows that drivers need to be aware who is at the top of the supply chain. No matter the nationality of the drivers or how complex a supply chain is, those companies are responsible and accountable.”
FNV-VNB investigated many cases of driver abuse and is pushing the authorities to act on clear and existing European laws that exist to protect workers and to create a level playing field on European roads.
Frank Moreels, the President of the European Transport Workers’ Federation and member of the International Transport Workers’ Federation Road Transport steering committee stated:
“We see the need for us to be active in field investigation in supply chains and to protect drivers who are risk of being exploited. We want to inspire workers, map out supply chains and get to the top of the chain where the solution is. This bad case has shown us where the solution lies. We are now building new trade union models focused on prevention based on lessons from the German case. This new bad case has shown us where the problem starts and where the solutions lies. Economic employers have to take responsibility for what goes wrong in their supply chain. This new case of human trafficking shows that the situation is often dramatic. Multinational companies now have two options. Start working together with ETF & ITF to clean up the transport sector and end exploitation. Or to continue their bad policy of social dumping. Then they have to know that they will have to deal with our firm determination to force them on the way towards fair transport.”
Roberto Parrilllo, ETF Road Transport Section President added: “We need to make economic employers accountable for their part in supply chains. We need to reach out to the economic employers. They are the real exploiter of labour in these cases. We need laws in Europe to hold them responsible. Today, our biggest problem is the lack of enforcement and cross border controls in road transport, across Europe. There are 150,000 non-EU truck drivers in Europe today, working and living on appalling conditions, without a home to go to at the end of their working day or working week. We must have the full commitment of EU and national decision makers that driver exploitation is brought to an end once and for all. We will be working on it!”
For further questions:
Edwin Atema from FNV- Stichting VNB: 0031 – 6 516 103 50
Michael Wahl DGB-Projekt Faire Mobilität: 0049 170 576 20 35