Trade unionists from across Europe met in Rheda-Wiedenbrück (North-Rhine Westphalia) to demand that transnational rules be applied in the meat industry. Rheda-Wiedenbrück is home to one of the largest meat companies in Europe and worldwide, Tönnies. “Germany is the black sheep in Europe” said EFFAT General Secretary Harald Wiedenhofer, stressing that the minimum wage of 8.60 Euros introduced two years ago did not help change the negative impacts on the workers of neighbouring countries such as The Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. Harald Wiedenhofer emphasised that the free movement of services in the meat industry must be based on a level playing field, and must not lead to social dumping, extensive use of subcontracting or abuse of workers' rights.
NGG vice-chairman Claus-Harald Güster criticised the fact that slaughterhouses are still working with sub-contractors and “precarious work and exploitation are on the daily agenda. The workers hardly have a say in the companies despite the voluntary collective agreements in the meat sector”, denounced Güster. Posted workers mainly from Eastern Europe still have to face arbitrary and unfair wage deductions for housing and transport.
“Social dumping is not a legal competitive parameter”, said Jim Jensen from NNF, asking for equal pay for work of equal value in the same workplace. In Denmark wages in the meat industry are three times higher than in Germany, which of course leads to unfair competition and job losses in areas close to the border. Members from trade unions FGA CFDT (France) and FLAI CGIL (Italy) made clear that EU citizenship does not end at country borders – we need a European form of solidarity amongst the workforce.
The meat conference rose awareness on precarious conditions and unfair practices in the industry. The European trade unionists pointed out that exploitative conditions need to be identified, reported and sanctioned. Consumers also have their say in revealing and naming abuses and grievances. EFFAT is therefore involved in the discussion on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive by the European Commission that aims to ensure fairer treatment.
The European meat conference took place in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, at the headquarters of the largest German meat producer Tönnies. According to NGG, 3500 of the 4000 employees in the production line are employed under temporary work contracts.