Published: 19/08/2013

The governments of 4 cities in the Vechta district of the German State of Lower Saxony (a major hub for animal slaughtering and wage dumping) have signed an agreement with meat-packing companies and their labour providers providing for a minimum wage of EUR 8.50.

Germany has no minimum wage law. Meat packing companies, in particular, exploit this by hiring workers from eastern European countries through agencies who pay them poverty wages. The German Food and Allied Workers Union, NGG, has been campaigning for a legal minimum wage of EUR 8.50 as part of the fight against wage dumping.

However, the agreement provides for a “deboned minimum wage”, as the progressive German daily, TAZ, describes it: transport costs from the home country to Germany, rent for accommodation and transport to work can be deducted.

While describing the commitment of the mayors of the 4 cities as a step in the right direction, the NGG has decried the language in the agreement, which refers to a “generally perceived appropriate consideration for services rendered”.

In the words of Mathias Brümmer, head of the NGG regional office for the Oldenburg/East Frisian Region, “EUR 8.50 must be paid as direct wages – not, as formulated in the agreement, that the value of the work of people from Eastern Europe is stated as a perceived gross wage of EUR 8.50. Tools, work clothing and transport must be provided and paid for by the employer. Rents must be based on the value of a property and not determined by the greed of the landlord.”

Criticizing the lack of union participation in the negotiations, Brümmer stated, “There is no alternative. If we want to improve conditions for a particular group of people, we must talk with those people, and not merely about them.”