© K. Domagala-Pereira/DW
The Mazur company owes 6,000 euros to Roman, who is part of the strikers.
Learn the most important and interesting with the bulletin at 5 p.m. Every day, directly to your email.
A month ago, 30 drivers went on hunger strike in Germany. Together with other colleagues, they have been living in a parking lot next to a German highway for weeks. And they are waiting to finally receive their salaries.
The driver of the Kacha tyre has been living in a rest area on Germany’s A5 motorway, near Frankfurt am Main Airport, since mid-July. More than 80 lorry drivers are on strike at this location demanding that they be paid missing wages from the Polish shipping company Mazur. Most of the drivers are from Georgia and Uzbekistan, and some from Ukraine and Turkey.
All day driving for 80 euros
Kacha has been working for this company for three years. He travels all over Europe for 80 euros a day. “They always pay late and withhold money from us without explanation,” he says. He hasn’t been paid for months. Along with 29 other drivers, he went on hunger strike 29 days ago. On the advice of doctors, they recently started eating, but they continue to strike.
Another driver – Roman, has been working for “Mazur” since the middle of March this year. According to him, the Polish company owes him nearly 6,000 euros. He traveled mainly through Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries, so he knows that he is entitled to more than 80 euros a day. In principle, he should receive at least the German minimum wage, but he has no such expectations. “I don’t want to be paid like a German, but nobody works without money. They have to pay us what they promised,” says the man.
The drivers of “Mazur” are protesting for the second time – in April, over 60 drivers announced a strike in the same parking lot. Then the company sent private security guards to seize the trucks. The German police also had to intervene. After about 4 weeks, Mazur agreed to pay the drivers what they were owed.
“They are predators”
Now the trucks of the Polish company are again gathered in Greffenhausen. Georgian and Uzbek flags fly and large posters read “No money”. There are no shortage of accusations against the big German companies that use the services of “Mazur” – the protesters made posters with the logos of these companies. Among them – “Deutsche Bahn”, DHL, “Audi” and others. Companies whose internal rules explicitly state that they expect their business partners to respect “human rights, including core labor standards” and to “act honestly, responsibly and fairly”.
For the drivers, who have been on strike for 10 weeks, the reality is quite different. Large bodies have become their home, pallets are used for tables and boxes for chairs. Gas stoves are located next to the trucks, on which pasta is cooked and canned goods are heated. There are several chemical toilets in the parking lot, and the only shower regularly does not work. People heat their water in the sun.
© Boris Roessler/dpa/picture alliance
Living room, dining room, bedroom – car bodies have become home for drivers for weeks.
On each truck, the driver has placed a sheet on which is written the amount owed to him by “Mazur”. In total, it amounts to about half a million euros. An amount that the Polish company refuses to pay. “They are predators,” said Edwin Atema of the Dutch unions representing the striking drivers.
While the workers expect to be paid, however, Mazur has filed “charges of attempted extortion, as well as misappropriation and theft of vehicles and goods.” The case is being investigated by the Polish and German prosecutors.
The guarantor companies are pointed to as the main culprits
When asked when the strike will end, trade unionist Atema says the following: “It’s very simple – in ten minutes, if the German guarantor companies that allowed this to happen pay the drivers.” Atema has already contacted the companies whose goods are blocked in Greffenhausen. So far, only two Austrian companies have paid 20 thousand euros each and have promised to terminate their contracts with Mazur. According to the trade unionist, the “big fish” should now do the same.
The strike highlights the problems of the entire transport sector and the miserable working conditions in the industry. The main accusations are aimed at the companies that work with the Polish company. “After the first strike, everyone supposedly agreed that they would no longer work with Mazur. After a few months, however, everything went back to the old way,” says Atema.
In July, the Polish Labor Inspectorate inspected the company. The presented documents indicate that the drivers were paid according to the hours worked, but they only worked a few tens of hours a month, writes the Internet portal Trans.info. When the inspectors asked the company to provide the digital files from the tachographs and driver cards, they were damaged and could no longer be read.
© Boris Roessler/dpa/picture alliance
The company owes around half a million euros to the drivers, they calculate.
The drivers are tired, but they are not losing hope
German and European politicians come to Greffenhausen and promise help. Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil has ordered a special audit of the Polish shipping firm’s customers, and GSDP chairman Lars Klingbeil has personally spoken to various firms that have promised to review their supply chains.
German unions and organizations are supporting the protesting drivers with food, drinks and other supplies. In nearby towns, sports clubs offer drivers the use of showers and provide them with bicycles.
The drivers are not giving up yet, but some of them seem to be losing hope already. “I don’t think Mazur will pay us,” says Sergey, to whom the Polish freight forwarder owes 7,500 euros. His colleague Roman is tired of waiting, but still has a glimmer of hope. “We will fight to the end. I just want the money for my work,” he says, adding: “Hope dies last.”