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18. Sep 2019

‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’ (temporary employment agency): The ‘other side’ of Germany’s labour market

There are hundreds of ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’ or ‘temporary employment agency’ dominating the current German labour market. These agencies lease workers mostly on short-term basis to different industries, supermarkets and other business enterprises. Leased workers (In German: Lieharbeiter or Zeitarbeiter) are normally low-paid and forced to do the heaviest works at their work places. Often they have to accept or bow down to inhuman demands of the ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’.

Summarized here are few cases from different sources who experienced the hardship under the so-called ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’: 

Mariam had nightshift for the week. It started from Sunday. Normally the week ends on Friday morning (Night shift runs from 22:00 to 6:00 the following day). So Friday is supposed to be free. On Thursday night Shift Supervisor asked her whether she could work on dayshift the following day, which is Friday. As she declined, so he asked Mariam to contact her ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’. Night shift ends at 6:00 in the morning. It takes one and half hour for her to reach home from workplace. She contacted her ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’ around 9:00 and told that she feels extremely tired from the week-long night shift and physically not fit to go for the day shift that starts at 14:00. But the responsible person in the ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’ told her that she ‘must’ go for the day shift and there’s no other alternative. Failed to convince her ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’, Mariam went to work for the company. But she was at the end of her physical strength. She had only few hours to rest in between.    

Rossmann is one of the top companies in Germany that is heavily dependent on leased workers for its Central Storage Facility (Zentrallager) in Landsberg. Although jobless rate in Sachsen-Anhalt is one of the highest in Germany, the company recently hired a large number of temporary workers from Poland. If our Polish colleagues get 3.50 Euro or 4.0 Euro per hour, that will be ‘no surprise’.

Rossmann is one of the top companies in Germany that is heavily dependent on leased workers for its Central Storage Facility (Zentrallager) in Landsberg. Although jobless rate in Sachsen-Anhalt is one of the highest in Germany, the company recently hired a large number of temporary workers from Poland. If our Polish colleagues get 3.50 Euro or 4.0 Euro per hour, that will be ‘no surprise’.

2nd Case. The ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’ asked Manuel to go to work with another leased-worker who has a car. Travel distance is about one and half hour for one way. While returning from work and still on the way, Manuel’s colleague (car owner) told him that he has ‘some problems’ with the ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’, so he is going to leave him at the Leipzig Airport. It was about 21:00 and there were construction works going on for rail lines between Leipzig and the city where Manuel lives. So the regular rail connection was completely disrupted. Finally around 23:30 it was possible for Manuel to get a connection.

3rd Case. Similar to the 2nd one, but this time Manuel was left at the work place as the man with the car left him just because he, according to the car owner, failed to appear at the parking place in time. They were supposed to meet at the parking place around 14:00. Shift ended ten minutes earlier that day and Manuel was at the parking place few minutes before 14:00, but there was no sign of his colleague. He already left the working place leaving Manuel behind. It was an extremely embarrassing situation for him. His temporary work place is located in an industrial area where no public transport is available and only accessible by private vehicles. That’s not all, one way travel distance between his work place and the city he lives is about one and half hour. It’s a situation, words can hardly describe.

While one of Manuel’s friends tried to request the ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’ to arrange a transport for him, the contact person in the office refused straight to do anything rather suggested finding a way back home by Manuel’s own efforts. Needless to say, Manuel found himself ‘lost’ somewhere in the middle of desert. To the best of his luck, after two and half hours efforts, he could finally arrange a way back home.

4th case. The ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’ asked Aaron to go for night shift on Friday. He was told about it on Friday afternoon. But as Aaron was not informed earlier about the work, he had already planned to meet his family on the weekend. So he declined. Reaction was extremely harsh: ‘du musst gehen oder Kündigung machen’ (either you must go to work or leave the job). So Aaron lost his job.

These are few examples that leased workers experience in their everyday life in Germany. And it’s all happening before the eyes of the German authorities.

Names mentioned here are fictional. 

One more thing. While your month-long work in those ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’ brings you about 700 – 800 Euro, companies like Rossmann makes profit millions of Euros. It’s no surprise when German news daily ‘Der Spiegel’ (The Mirror) in a recent issue reported that Germany’s Rich are getting richer. The trend is certainly upward.

*About the Author: Anonymous. I hope that German Government, European Union, International Labor Organization, related authorities and civil society will take necessary steps to protect the rights of the ‘leased workers’ and take strong actions against the so-called ‘Zeitarbeitsfirma’. Exploitation of any form must be faced with justice.

Note: The opinions and views of the author do not necessarily reflect the point of view of Shamskm.com editors.

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