Temp Work – Scandals in Austria

A study by the University of Vienna came to the conclusion that temporary employment at the mask manufacturer Hygiene Austria and in a postal distribution centre in Inzersdorf led to the exploitation of the migrants employed there.

STUDY CASTS NEW LIGHT ON TEMP WORK IN AUSTRIA

The study entitled “When I entered this warehouse, I was back in Iraq” was sponsored by the Chamber of Labor (AK). The study author Dr. Johanna Neuhauser interviewed 15 affected people, who described their experiences working at Hygiene Austria. For example, some employees had to take over the early shift at the end of their night shift if there were not enough colleagues available to take over for them. Short-term shift assignments via WhatsApp were also common. Particularly frightening: neither the Post nor Hygiene Austria considered exhaustion a legitimate reason to take a short break.

At Hygiene Austria, an employee even cut off part of his finger because the machines were set up faster and the safety measures were switched off. In addition, overtime was not compensated or part of the salary was not paid. Those interviewed for the study said they were treated like slaves or animals and, upon entering the company, felt like they were back in Iraq.

The study also shows that the so-called „essential workers“ are often employees with a background of migration or escape. The legal protection department of the AK Vienna confirms this key statement based on its experience. Without their work, which is often not visible, we would be in a much worse position in our everyday social life. Nevertheless, migrants are a popular target for the right-wing political spectrum and are particularly often victims of labour and human rights violations. As temporary workers are often employed in complex chains of subcontractors, they have particular difficulties in asserting their rights.

WHAT IS TEMP WORK?

Temporary work occurs when so-called temporary employment agencies make a contract with a wage earner. The agency can “leave” the employees he employs to another company for a clearly defined period of time and for a fee. Temporary workers actually work for two companies.

The temporary employment agencies make a profit from the difference (as large as possible) between the total wage costs and the remuneration agreed with the hirer. They usually pay their employees 10 to 20 percent less than the collective agreement in the respective branch provides. The user companies, on the other hand, often have to pay 1.5 times the wages of a permanent worker.

TEMP WORK IN AUSTRIA

According to Der Standard, slightly more than 90,000 people were employed as temporary workers in 2,200 Austrian companies – and the trend is rising. The aim of temporary work should actually be to cushion order peaks. Instead, core workforces are being made temps.

According to Statista, temporary work is used particularly frequently in the sectors of industry, trade and crafts, trade, transport and traffic as well as information and consulting. In the area of other interest groups, tourism and leisure industry as well as banking and insurance, however, it is rather unusual.

In most cases, agency work is no more than a cover for the exploitation of workers. The ÖGB therefore demands that the proportion of temporary workers per company be limited to 10 percent of the workforce. This would create more jobs in the companies. Temporary workers could thus be taken on as permanent employees.

WHAT DO THE POLITICAL PARTIES IN AUSTRIA SAY ABOUT TEMP WORK

In 2019, the ÖGB wanted to know from all candidate parties whether they supported limiting temporary work. The NEOS spoke out against it, arguing that companies should be free to “hire staff depending on the order situation”. The ÖVP is also of the opinion that temporary work does not have to be handled more restrictively. And although the FPÖ is in favour of the limitation, it doesn’t seem to feel any time pressure on the subject – they first want to think about the status and future of temporary worker models in a sector- and company-specific manner.

The SPÖ, the Now list and the change welcomed the proposal to limit the temporary workforce to ten percent. For the Greens, “temporary work must be an exception”. So far, only the KPÖ can imagine a concrete ban on temporary work.

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