Bornheim: Seasonal Workers Win Wage Dispute
The following is a translation of an update published by the FAU Bonn on the strike and legal distupe by seasonal workers from Romania working in asparagus fields in Bornheim (Germany).
An out-of-court settlement has been reached in the dispute over back wages for over a hundred Romanian seasonal workers of the insolvent Ritter asparagus estate. This is what the grassroot union Free Workers’ Union (FAU) Bonn was able to find out on request The agreement was reached between the legal representation of the seasonal workers, the lawyers Harald Klinke and Stefan Hübner, and the insolvency administration of Klaus & Sabine Ritter GbR, the law firm Schulte-Beckhausen & Bühs. Both parties have agreed not to disclose the content of the agreement. However, since negotiations on owed wages were ranging at around 100,000 Euros in July 2020 already, it can be assumed that the final settlement was not lower than the amount in dispute at that time.
The FAU Bonn welcomes the result:
“The seasonal workers have shown that it is worth fighting for their rights. The untiring efforts of the lawyers Harald Klinke and Stefan Hübner as well as the solidarity among the workers, together with a militant grassroots union behind them, made this success possible. Especially considering the current debate about seasonal work without health insurance in the Corona Pandemic, this result shows that seasonal workers cannot simply be treated like lawless serfs,” said Emilia Steinhausen of the FAU Bonn.
In May, a spectacular strike by over 200 seasonal workers took place at the Ritter asparagus farm in Bornheim, which is under insolvency administration. The reason for the strike, apart from the unpaid wages, was the inhumane conditions in the workers’ accommodation. Through the strike and public pressure, a partial payment of wages was already achieved in May. In July 2020, negotiations were initiated on overdue wages amounting to approximately 100,000 Euros for more than one hundred seasonal workers. Instead of conducting a large number of individual lawsuits before the Bonn Labour Court, the dispute was transferred to a settlement procedure. This has now been concluded.
Klaus & Sabine Ritter GbR was repeatedly the subject of scandals in the course of its insolvency. These included wage withholding, social fraud and serious accidents at work. Despite the success in Bornheim, the situation of many seasonal workers in Germany remains precarious. The lack of legal and language skills of the workers, as well as the lack of trade union representation, are often exploited by farm owners.
If you have any questions, please contact the FAU Bonn:
Article in English on the strike in May 2020: beyondeurope.net