Labour exploitation in Austria

AREAS OF LABOUR EXPLOITATION

Care and support

The workers concerned are often placed through agencies in their Eastern European home countries.

They are lured to Austria with relatively high wages. In addition to a high placement fee for the carers, a considerable amount of their wages is taken for accommodation. The families of the people being cared for may therefore officially pay the minimum wage, but the carers receive much less.

Especially the 24h care is discussed time and again in connection with labour exploitation.

Agriculture

The hourly wage in the agriculture sector is strictly regulated by the collective labour agreement. In order to avoid paying minimum wages and social security contributions some of those affected do not register officially and thereby work illegally. It seems encouraging that the number of undeclared employees in agriculture has been falling for years. However, the exploiters have a new scam. Since EU citizens do not need to register with social security for marginal employment, part-time work is flourishing. That means the same work with significantly less salary. Pension entitlements are also significantly lower. Older workers simply cannot afford to retire and are forced to continue working in this exploitative system up until an old age. Due to the corona crisis the grievances in agriculture were picked up in the media. Above all, the horrendous housing situations were made public. Despite legal requirements these often do not meet the basic standards.

Other sectors with a high proportion of labour exploitation

There are other industries in which cases of labour exploitation are reported time and again. Jobs that require little training and are very labour-intensive are particularly affected. This includes auxiliary jobs in the catering, brewing and cleaning sectors. This is made possible through subcontractors or placement agencies. Large companies and private households also benefit from the exploitation without exposing themselves to the risk of legal consequences. The large wage gap between Austria and Romania or Hungary is gradually narrowing. Recruitment in these areas is shifting further and further eastwards so that it remains possible to pay such low wages.

CHALLENGES IN THE FIGHT AGAINST LABOUR EXPLOITATION

There are special challenges in combating labour exploitation. Above all, it takes experience and legal expertise to recognise such cases. Due to subcontractors, the structure is usually (intentionally) very opaque. International police investigations are exceedingly rare. As a rule, those affected do not know their rights. They are usually not aware of any minimum wage laws or the occupational health and safety regulations. Although they are usually ‘not really locked up’, there is hardly any chance of obtaining relevant information on their own, especially in rural areas without transport options. It is especially difficult to get hold of people in private households such as caregivers. Often the employer is the only contact person. Those affected suffer greatly from their situation. Those affected mostly take up such jobs in Central Europe to save money or to send it back home to their families. Often the shame to terminate the employment relationship or to ask for help is too great (if this is even possible at all). Not or hardly being able to communicate in German makes the situation even more difficult.

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE also takes care and supports trainees who have escaped labour exploitation. Those affected can learn German with us and receive information regarding their legal rights. We also help them find a fairly paid job. This is a good way to prevent new coercive relationships. You can help and support us in many ways, so that we can continue to be active in this area in the future!

Translated by Sophie Kitchen

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