London, Brussels — Major multinationals and the European Commission can no longer ignore the widespread rights violations and profiteering from cheap subcontracted labour exposed by the wildcat truckers’ strike currently underway in Gräfenhausen, Germany.
A strike by over 60 truck drivers who have been unpaid for months exposes the dark underbelly of an industry that carries over 90 percent of freight within Europe. The workers, mostly from Uzbekistan and Georgia, have parked up their trucks at the Gräfenhausen rest area near Frankfurt, Germany, for the last two weeks and have vowed not to surrender the vehicles until they are properly paid.
The drivers have been forced into working long hours, often sleeping in their cabs and pressurised into unsafe practices. The company they work for, the Polish consortium Lukmaz, Agmaz and Imperia, work in the supply chain of major corporations including Volkswagen. Under German ‘due diligence’ laws, these corporations are ultimately responsible for labour abuses in their supply chains.
“These drivers are standing up and demanding to be treated with decency and to be paid for their work,” said Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). “It is unbelievable that instead of immediately paying the wages owed to these drivers, their employer arrived at the picket line in an armoured car with hired thugs to intimidate workers and attempt to confiscate their trucks.”
“This sense of impunity has been caused by years of indifference from major multinationals and European legislators who didn’t care about the abuses in critical supply chains as long as the goods continued to arrive on time.”
The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) has today written to the European institutions and the International Road Transport Union (IRU) highlighting this strike and demanding immediate measures and actions that guarantee drivers’ decent rates of pay and protections that preserve their safety and recognise their critical role in European supply chains, with a particular focus on preventing the exploitation of third country nationals working in Europe.
“The extraordinary courage these drivers are demonstrating in the face of ruthless threats and intimidation has shone a light on the reality for thousands of truck drivers transporting goods all over Europe,” said Livia Spera, ETF General Secretary.
“For multinationals and their transport suppliers who have been exploiting every loophole in European legislation, or flagrantly violating European law, to maximise profits at the expense of employment standards, this strike has put them on notice.”
“Drivers have had enough of the exploitation and the millions of transport workers in Europe and globally stand with them as they say enough is enough.”
The drivers have authorised European and Georgian trade union representatives to negotiate on their behalf.
“We call on Lukmas, Agmaz and Imperia to negotiate and pay all drivers what is owed them,” said Spera. “And it’s time for the multinationals implicated in this dispute to wake up to their responsibilities and ensure compliance in their supply chains.”
Under the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains introduced on 1 January 2023, and international best practice, the onus is on users of supply chains and transport companies — the customers of transport companies like IKEA, Volkswagen, CH Robinson, LKW Walter and Sennder reported in this case — to prevent and mitigate human rights abuses and ensure that worker rights are preserved in their supply chains.
“The ITF and its 18 million members, together with the ETF and its five million members, are proud to stand with the striking drivers. We will continue to ramp up solidarity actions for these brave drivers until their demands are met,” said Cotton.
ITF: Luke Menzies, +44 7770 728 229, firstname.lastname@example.org
ETF: Begüm Boynukalin, +32 478 79 40 53, email@example.com
RTDD Foundation: Edwin Atema, +31 6 51610350 (on the ground in Gräfenhausen)
Notes to Editors:
About the ITF: The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, affiliate-led federation of transport workers’ unions recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives; connecting trade unions and workers’ networks from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice of the almost-20 million women and men who move the world.
About the ETF: The European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) represents over 5 million transport workers from more than 200 transport unions across Europe, from the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Central and Eastern Europe, in over 30 countries. The ETF's work is driven by its vision for Fair Transport: quality jobs with safe, reliable transport services for customers