Last week, the German Bundestag adopted the “Gesetz zur Sicherung von Arbeitnehmerrechten in der Fleischwirtschaft”, a law securing workers’ rights in the meat processing industry.
Claus-Harald Güster, deputy president of the German food union NGG (Nahrung Genuss-Gaststätten) expressed his pleasure that the SPD/CDU/CSU coalition had reached agreement on this ground-breaking law. “This decision is an important step in the right direction. Through adopting the law, the government has made it clear that the voluntary commitment to improve working conditions given two years ago by meat-processing employers is not sufficient. Voluntary commitments only work when all players in the sector abide by them. This was by no means the case in the meat-processing industry.”
Over the past few year, a large number of meat-processing companies have resorted to using employment agencies – some of them with very dubious practices – to reduce costs. The toll is paid by agency workers with low wages and bad working conditions.
The new law is meant to establish fair working conditions in the meat-processing industry, protecting workers and stopping abuse. The employer now has to assume liability for the whole subcontracting chain and for the payment of social security contributions. Moreover, he is now required to provide the clothing and tools needed for the work free of charge. Documentation requirements have been also tightened, with employers now having to record the working time of their employees.
Güster: “After meat-processing employers have managed to duck their responsibility for working conditions for years now, the new law clearly limits this organised lack of responsibility. As of now, meat-processing employers assume liability for what their subcontractors get up to – and that’s the way it should be. Even if the new rules are still not sufficient to eliminate all deficits, the law constitutes a milestone. The mandatory reporting of working hours can be a cornerstone for enforcing demands. Similarly, the official checks of whether the minimum wage is being paid are made easier by the new law.”
See NGG press release