2021.04.15 09:26

Exploitation of migrant workers widespread in Lithuania's multi-billion transport sector – investigation

LRT.lt2021.04.15 09:26

An investigation by Lasivės TV details exploitation of migrant workers in Lithuania's logistics sector.

Drivers hired by Lithuanian transport companies are forced to pay their employers and are subjected to unlawful pay deductions for alleged violations.

Read more: In protest, Lithuanian drivers to halt their trucks across Europe

According to Laisvės TV, foreign drivers are often forced to pay into so-called ‘driver funds’ or ‘bačkos’ (barrels): they have to either pay between 300 and 700 euros to their employer at once or transfer 50 to 100 euros after each trip until there is around 1,000 euros in the ‘barrel’.

Companies also make unlawful deductions from the drivers' pay for actual or supposed rule violations: straying from set routes, ‘wasteful’ driving, making rest stops, or even talking back at their managers.

The investigation is based on anonymous interviews with drivers working for the logistics company Hoptransa and a former manager of Girteka, one of Europe's biggest transportation companies.

Both firms have denied the investigation's findings. However, says Laisvės TV, similar practices are widespread in the entire sector.

Transportation is the fourth largest sector of the Lithuanian economy, according to a 2019 report by the Vytautas Magnus University, employing around 77,000 long-haul lorry drivers. According to Laisvės TV, 69,000 of them are migrants from non-EU countries: Belarus, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.

Foreign workers often agree to work for lower pay, put up with appalling working conditions and obey unlawful requirements of their bosses, including pay deductions.

Last year, Labour Dispute Commission processed over 1,000 complaints from lorry drivers, according to the investigation. Trade Unions claim they receive complaints from drivers over mistreatment every day.

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