A new report prepared by the Dutch trade union foundation FNV-VNB, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the IUF uncovers the multiple chains of subcontracted labour which have enabled the expansion of squalid exploitation in European road transport. Transport companies providing services to some of Europe’s largest multinationals subcontract the work to companies based in low-wage Eastern Europe who in turn recruit – and are in some cases trafficking – drivers to do the haulage. Under cover of the pandemic, companies are moving to aggressively lower transport prices, leading to further attacks on worker pay, conditions, and safety.
The report reveals how drivers from Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkey, the Philippines and other non-EU countries are employed on Eastern European contracts while working almost exclusively in Western Europe, often after paying high recruitment fees. It presents evidence of workers forced to sign contracts in languages they cannot read; drivers paid as little as EUR 110 per month, required to live in their vehicles for months on end without access to water and sanitation, and threatened with violence if they alert authorities to the massive violations of safety, working time or pay. Fraud is common; workers are supplied with false documents about their employment status and records documenting working time are falsified.
Over the past 18 months the IUF has worked with the ITF and FNV-VNB to identify major transnational food and beverage companies whose road transport logistics systems risk contributing to these abuses. Discussions with individual companies, based on long-standing IUF relationships with them, have resulted in agreement on a three-part model that initially establishes agreed standards and mechanisms to assess compliance. The third part of the model identifying appropriate measures for remedial action to address abuses will be developed during pilot projects that have been agreed initially with two major companies. These pilot projects are scheduled to begin when the COVID-19 situation in Europe allows.