Working conditions of migrant workers in focus

From March 11 to 14, 2019, representatives of projects and initiatives from churches and trade unions discussed in the Herzogenrath Nell Breuning House the often inhumane situation of migrant workers and sought approaches to improving them. Maria Reina Martin, vice-president of the European Centre for Workers' Questions (EZA), stressed that it is important to remember that this is about people, not numbers. "All people have the same rights because they have the same dignity," Dr. Hildegard Hagemann of Justitia et Pax, in agreed with this. However, both are undermined by the exploitative and sometimes slave-like working conditions of migrant workers.

Most of them leave their country of poverty because the income, especially in the Eastern European countries, is insufficient to secure their livelihood for themselves and their families. The consequences are grave, for them personally, the families at home, where children often grow up without one, in extreme cases even both parents, as well as for the economic development in their home countries, for which know-how and skilled workers are lost. For example, in Bulgaria, where in the past few years, with a population of nine million people, two million have emigrated abroad.

In Germany, most migrant work is employed in moonlighting, precarious employment contracts or bogus self-employment. They work in the meat industry, in large slaughterhouses, in the hotel trade, in particular in noble hotels, in the construction industry, in private households as maids and care for old and ill people or as seasonal workers in the agriculture. They have few rights and can rarely claim them, work around the clock, which is rarely compensated, so that their hourly wage on average is four to five euros despite minimum wages in some industries. They are forced to move into and pay for bad and expensive accommodation and are usually not entitled to reasonable care in the event of illness. "There are mafia practices in dealing with these Eastern European migrant workers, and millions of euros are being made in teaching and exploiting these workers. The worst thing is that these people are regarded as second-class people in our Christian Western-influenced society, "summarizes company secretary Johannes Eschweiler, who, among other things, accompanies so-called " live ins ", foreign carers working in private households.

The aim of the conference participants was to create a public interest for this topic, especially with a view to the European elections in May 2019, and to demand humane treatment of those affected. It is about ensuring consultation and support, legal framework conditions that need to be improved, adhered to and controlled accordingly, for example, to be able to sue for outstanding wages. Political decisions are required, but also the churches are called upon, which should be in the sense of self-commitment focal points on the ground, for people in need, merge them and to initiate help for self-help. In the diocese of Aachen, for example, there is the self-help network "Respect" for the "Live in" as well as the company welfare service and the Catholic Workers' Movement (KAB) as contact points.