Portuguese tunnel workers will get their housing costs back

Some 59 Portuguese construction workers who were forced to pay €960 a month for housing and travel while working on a motorway tunnel near Maastricht are to have the money refunded.

Their working week will also be reduced to 40 hours, news agency ANP reports.

The consortium in charge of the project, a combination of Strukton and Ballast Nedam known as Avenue2, is guaranteeing the men will get all the money back since they started work on the project 18 months ago.

However, consortium director Bouke Lobbezoo did not say who would foot the bill, local paper De Limburger reported. If the Irish staffing agency Atlanco Rimec does not pay, the consortium will make the refunds, the paper said.


The concessions follow a report by a committee of experts, including Maastricht city council officials, which concluded the men were not being exploited ‘in either a legal or a social sense’.

Nevertheless, they did pay too much to live in properties scheduled for demolition and worked too-long hours, the report said.

Earlier on Friday, building union FNV Bouw said it would hold the Ballast Nedam and Strukton responsible for the way the workers were being exploited and the fact official pay and conditions agreements were not being adhered to.

FNV spokeswoman Janna Mud said she is extremely disappointed at the report. ‘The construction sector pay agreement was not being kept, they had to work 60 hours a week and paid scandalously high rent,’ she told news agency ANP.

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