Summary of hearing 1
As part of the “Testing EU Citizenship as Labour Citizenship: From Cases of Labour Rights Violations to a Strengthened Labour-Rights Regime” project co-funded by the European Union under the Europe for All Citizens Programme, 5 partner countries including Czech Republic, Romania, Italy, Lithuania and Germany, are holding preparatory activities and Hearings with migrant workers from various economic sectors.
The central aim of the three meetings is to preliminarily map the types of labour rights violations, and to find out how the workers view their EUcitizenship as it relates to labour and mobility. Through these Hearings and debates we managed to gain a preliminary idea of how workers see and experience their “labour citizenship”, and where the gaps between their experiences of exploitation and rights as working European citizens lie. On the basis of these Hearings the same partner countries and organizations will hold a second round of hearings with not only migrant workers, but also policy makers and stakeholders, in order to discuss the best possible policies and recommendations.
ROMANIA- Hearing I - CONECT Association (formerly named ADO SAH ROM)
Conect Association held the first hearing with mostly Romanian workers that had experienced working abroad for a limited period of time, in countries like Germany, UK, Spain and Italy and in sectors related to construction, agriculture and domestic care. Also, we initiated discussions with non-EU workers that had experienced working in similar sectors of the economy, thus trying to get a better perspective on the labor experiences of Romania’s emigrants and immigrants.
During the hearings we have focused particularly on issues like:
- Ways of finding jobs abroad (recruiting companies, personal connections, etc.)
- Type of contracts, guarantees and provisions that the workers were promised and the conditions they were offered in the field.
- Exploitation mechanisms (chains of subcontractors, lack of access to social benefits, improper working conditions, delays in payment, etc.)
- Support mechanisms for the workers that are reporting exploitative work conditions abroad (the role and involvement of trade unions, public institutions, embassies, NGO’s, web platforms, activist support groups)
- Legal issues and practices that are limiting the possibilities for investigating labor exploitation mechanisms (the workers can’t check if their contracts are registered, public institutions have very limited attributions, etc.)
Some of the workers talked about serious cases of labor exploitation, for example working without a contract, up to 12-14 hours/day, sleeping in improper conditions or not being provided with accommodation at all, being locked during controls from the labor inspection, net being offered medical care when needed, etc. Some of the victims of such situations have addressed the legal mechanisms and are now part of the trials against the ones that hired them, by denouncing the chain of subcontractors that is favoring such contexts as well. On the other hand, other workers chose to add these experiences to the endless list of similar stories, considering that getting involved in a trial against the employee or the recruitment agency would be too consuming and they would need to find other opportunities. The precarious situation of many workers is forcing them to accept jobs that don’t offer any guarantees, and as some of them are saying “we are counting on luck, each time we hope that it will be ok”. On the other hand, others consider that such experiences are making them more aware of the minimum conditions that they should check before accepting such jobs and also of the legal means that they have in order to denounce cases of labor exploitation.
As part of the Hearing I, we have initiated and renewed some connections with some trade unions, the labor inspections, NGO’s that are working in the field of human trafficking (investigating also cases of severe labor exploitation), as well as with some academics and activist groups that are supporting workers. These, together with some of the workers that shared their stories with us during Hearing I, will be invited to participate in Hearing II, that will take place in 11-12th of December 2015.
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