Truckers from Romania are taking legal action over exploitative wages and working conditions while they were working in the Belgian port of Antwerp. The drivers are suing their former employer because they claim they were being paid less than their Belgian counterparts, were working excessive hours and forced to tamper with the tachograph. They said that they earned 450 euros gross per month, plus 45 euros per day in expenses to work a 14- or 15-hour a day, sometimes six days a week.
The two workers, who are being supported by the Belgian ITF-affiliated union ACV Transcom, were recruited by a transport company in Antwerp, but have since lost their jobs – one of them reportedly for contacting the union, which helped to find them legal representation. The trial in a labour court in Antwerp is ongoing.
“We are convinced that the Romanians are not correctly paid, ” says Jan Sannen, national secretary of the union ACV Transcom. In his experience, drivers from overseas seldom dared to complain. It was time that the bad apple employers were rooted out, he said.
The case is being informed by a European Court of Justice ruling, which states that a driver employed in a country other than their own must receive the same wages as those resident in the country. Janina Malinovska, ITF assistant inland transport section secretary, said: “Using overseas labour paid cheap rates is not just a problem in Belgium but worldwide. We have had reports that Zimbabwean truckers are being employed in South Africa on lower rates. We need to raise awareness of social dumping and eliminate this discriminating practice; we must ensure that unions tackle the issue head on.”
The European Transport Workers’ Federation, the ITF’s European arm, is working on a project on the employment conditions of non-resident drivers in Europe. For more information visit: http://www.itfglobal.org/etf/road-transport.cfm ACV Transcom’s video promoting respect for professional drivers