Building firms accused of exploiting foreign staff on tunnel (update)

Polish and Portuguese construction workers who are building the A2 motorway tunnel near Maastricht are being exploited by the consortium in charge of construction, according to the FNV trade union federation.

The FNV says it is holding chief builders BallastNedam and Strukton responsible for the way sub-contractor Rimec is systematically underpaying staff.

The union claims Rimec has for almost 18 months wrongly withheld €1,000 a month from the salaries of Polish and Portuguese workers to pay for housing and transport costs.

This alone adds up to over €1m. In addition, the foreign workers are not paid in accordance with official pay scales, nor do they get holiday pay, overtime and other benefits, the union says.

The union says the two construction giants are prepared to compensate the workers after ‘heavy pressure’.

Meanwhile, an independent report into claims the men’s working conditions has found no evidence they were being exploited, Nos television reported. While mistakes had been made, there is no question of exploitation or slavery ‘in a legal sense or a social sense’, the researchers are quoted as saying.

However the report did state the official pay and conditions agreements were not being adhered to and that it is unclear if Rimec is legally allowed to deduct money for housing and transport – money which was paid to another firm closely allied to Rimec itself. In addition, the men paid too much for these expenses and were working 50 hours a week which is too long, the report said.

Rimec is a subsidiary of Irish staffing agency Atlanto Rimec, which provides Eastern European workers for construction projects across Europe, local newspaper De Limburger said.

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