Arbeiten! Germany Wants Ukrainians For Slave Labour

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Next year the largest labor market in Europe – Germany – can open up for the Ukrainian gastarbeiter. 
From next year Berlin plans to simplify employment for citizens of countries that aren’t members of the European Union.

The Bundestag is preparing for acceptance a migration draft law under which foreigners will be issued a working visa using a simplified procedure. The discussion about this is still ongoing. The document stipulates in its most liberal variant that a working visa will be issued for half a year without invitations, and once already in Germany people will be able to choose for themselves an employer and to receive work.

After the period of validity of a working visa ends, it will be necessary to leave the country. And in half a year it will be possible to come back according to the same scheme.

Currently a working visa in Germany is not so simple to obtain. Like elsewhere in rich EU countries, the employer must first prove to the authorities the absence of local applicants for this position, which will be checked for two months

“Strana” found out what awaits Ukrainian gastarbeiters in Germany if this law will be adopted and will come into force.

“Not only superprogrammers from India, but also cooks from Ukraine”

The Minister of Internal Affairs and the leader of CSU Horst Seehofer intends to submit changes to the migration legislation in October of this year, reports Deutsche Welle. Its details, however, are still being specified.

The partners of CDU/CSU in the ruling coalition – social democrats – insist on a more liberal option under which migrants can enter the country without having a specific job proposal.

Politicians from the bloc of Christian parties don’t support such a format.

“If we are talking about migration, the one must be clearly registered – migration to Germany is possible only in the presence of a workplace,” assures the deputy of the Bundestag from the CDU Armin Schuster.

At the same time, the CDU and CSU recognise that the current rules regulating migration issues need to be changed.

“Until this moment the obstacles for migrants that we had were too rigid,” stated Philipp Amthor from the CDU.

“Speaking about the migration of labor, it is necessary to understand that this concerns not only superprogrammers from India, but also cooks from Ukraine,” added Philipp Amthor, the deputy from the CDU and head of the Bundestag domestic policy committee.

In Germany there still isn’t a separate migratory law, but the social democrats demanded to adopt it, and the ruling block of CDU/CSU acted against it. But the social democrats are convinced that the country needs working hands and there is a need to adopt the new law.

“The current rules of migration are a bureaucratic monster. If Germany wants to win the international competition for foreign qualified professionals, it needs a simple, clear, and distinct migratory law,” stated the politician from the SPD Burkhard Lischka.

There is no one to clean asparagus

The reason why the government thought about simplifying the hiring of foreigners is because of the shortage of working hands. The Poles who earlier went to work in fields for €1,500 a month don’t accept such salaries anymore. They demand an increase, and look for work in other countries or come back home where there is many jobs too.

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In the summer the German Farmers Associations demanded from the federal government to simplify employment for countries that aren’t a part of the EU. There is a special demand for collectors of crops from fields of asparagus, which is grown in large quantities by the Germans.

As the German farmer Jürgen Jakobs told the Tageszeitung publication, this year 85 of the 350 ordered workers didn’t come to his company. Because of this some of his fields rot because there is nobody to collect the asparagus.

Work on these vegetables is rather intense, and German farmers admit that they can’t compete with the salaries offered by civil engineering firms that pay €9 per hour of work.

The cost of accommodation is taken away from this sum, which is about €1,300-1,500 per person.

Fleeing Poland

If the migration draft law is adopted in its liberal variant, then a considerable part of Ukrainian gastarbeiters will go to this country.

“In the event that German opens up the labour market, most Ukrainian labor migrants will go there. It is possible to predict, with a high share of probability, a new wave of labor migration from Ukraine, which will be very difficult to stop,” wrote Vasily Voskoboynik, the head of the association of companies of international employment, on his Facebook page.

According to forecasts, many of the Ukrainians who now work in Poland will move to Germany, plus those who can’t find a job in Ukraine. And if in Poland it is possible to earn on average €600, then in Germany it is approximately twofold more.

But not everything is so iridescent. Ukrainians are called there generally not for the most prestigious jobs – truckers, around-the-clock nurses for the elderly, and the agrarian sector. And with much less money than what the same Polish gastarbeiters are paid.

“In Poland the work is not a paradise, and in Germany the work is backbreaking”

Meanwhile in Poland preparations are ongoing for the massive loss of Ukrainian working hands.

“The introduction of a visa-free regime for citizens of Ukraine led to nervousness in the Polish labour market. Employers started to fear that Ukrainian employees will be attracted by higher salaries in Western Europe,” said Krzysztof Inglot, the CEO of a Polish recruitment agency that also selects staff in Ukraine, to Newsweek.

However, the expert is sure that for labor emigration Ukrainians will continue to have Poland as their first choice. “Firstly, this is legal employment in combination with guaranteed social help. The income is still several times higher than in Ukraine, and there is also social-cultural proximity,” said Inglot.

The personnel officer Maciej Witucki, who is the president of “Work Service SA”, doesn’t agree with Inglot, and believes that geographical and language proximity won’t become a decisive factor for the Ukrainian gastarbeiters.

“Like in the case with the emigration of Poles, big earnings play a key role, and in Germany they are several times higher than in our market,” said Witucki.

According to the polls of Polish recruitment agencies, nearly 60% of Ukrainians admit that they will leave the country when the labor market in Germany opens for them.

“Not many people now want to work in Poland for 10 zloties an hour (about €2.5) through an intermediary from Ukraine, which misleads workers. In Germany Ukrainians are paid €6-8 euros an hour,” stated Dmitry Dorogy, living in Katowice, to “Strana”.

Some Ukrainians are already leaving their Polish employers. Newsweek cites as an example the businessman Adam, who works near Szczecin for a company that produces plastic packing that is exported to Germany.

“Dozen of workers from Ukraine have worked for me for two years. Five of them said goodbye to me. They said that were going on holiday to Belgium for work in construction, where they were assisted by an acquaintance. There they will earn four times more than I can pay. I don’t know if they will return in the autumn,” complains Adam.

But gastarbeiters say that in Germany earning a salary is much harder work than in Poland.

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“In Poland the work is not a paradise, and in Germany the work is backbreaking. My acquaintance (she has a Hungarian passport, it was easier to settle) worked as a nurse for an elderly German couple, there the wife was confined to a wheelchair. Thus my acquaintance never slept, and cursed everything in the world. This is hard labor. She was receiving €2,000, but it is because she had the nationality of a EU country, but ours will be paid twice less. Truckers are the same, they are exploited. Their earnings depend on the number of hours, so they work ‘overtime’ to earn more, and it is fatiguing and risky – you only need to close your eyes for a couple of seconds at the wheel and you can crash,” said Galina Sandulyak from Lvov, who goes for seasonal work to Poland but isn’t going to Germany yet.

“In Germany and across all Europe only also wait for Ukrainians without knowledge of language and without professional knowledge of work,” said another gastarbeiter Olga Zhuk, who managed to work in Italy and Poland.

House slaves and caring for goats

Currently many Ukrainians work in Germany using biopassports, i.e., illegally (because they started to be paid slightly better in Poland so that they don’t leave and go to the west).

Among experts there is the opinion that Ukraine was given a visa-free regime for the sake of attracting cheap labor, which is especially actual against the background of a lack of workers in rich EU countries and the flow of refugees who live off welfare. And it is for certain that most Ukrainians go to Europe not to drink coffee or to look at the Colosseum.

“They visit for three months using the visa-free regime, in accordance with a preliminary agreement with an employer. Many builders, repairmen, gardeners, agricultural workers work in this way. They enter into an apartment, a house, an estate – and nobody sees them”, said the gastarbeiter Yury Kalchenko.

The Internet and social networks are full of the announcements of many Ukrainians concerning recruitment using biopassports.

“Work on a farm, two men are needed to care for animals (goats, chickens, pigs). The salary is €1,200, with free housing. Use biometrics or a Polish work visa”.

“Work in Germany. Apartment renovation. We need specialists: plasterboard, tiles, filler, paint, etc. Housing is provided, as well as transport to and fro work. The salary is from €1200”.

“We offer work for nursing in Germany with a salary from €700 to €1500 a month (depending on knowledge of language and experience). Accommodation with the patient’s family is included (plus food). We pay for transportation from Ukraine to Poland, from Poland to Germany, and back. We work with Polish visas and biometric passports.

Duties of the nurse – providing help to the patient: bathing, dressing, visiting doctors with the patient, going out for walks, cooking, cleaning, carrying out all household duties”.

“This is basically being a housemaid or even a servant, and when to be engaged with the patient or under what pretext are they looking for a house slave? Perhaps our people indeed suffer from a lack of money, but not from a lack of mind! And the German women don’t want to break their backs for such kopecks,” commented an indignant social network user.

In Germany on a “business trip” from Poland

There are already loopholes that can help one to be employed legally – through Poland.

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The scheme of employment in Germany, according to the words of gastarbeiters, is as follows.

A Polish company for a couple of hundred zloties completes the documentation for a Polish work visa and allegedly sends people on a business trip to Germany. For this purpose the Ukrainian receives a special visa (van der Elst) in the consulate of Germany. They wait to receive it for about two weeks. It is possible to work under it in Western Europe for three months within six months. Then there are options to stay – for example, it is possible to draw up a new contract.

The van der Elst visa is one more way for intermediaries to earn money.

“Agencies ask for about €50 for it. I did this, despite already having a Polish work visa to hand,” said the gastarbeiter Vladimir from Lvov.

This visa is issued on the basis of a decision of the European court, under which the companies located on the territory of the European Economic Area can employ people without an additional work permit if they work under a contract on behalf of a company from another EU country where the worker has an operating working visa.

Although not all EU countries agreed with such a decision of the European court. If Germany (with the van der Elst visa it is possible to work there for up to 3 months within half a year), Austria, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, for example, give them out, then Italy does not.

On the Internet there are a lot of announcements that use such a scheme: “Germany. Metalwork production. Needed: welders, fitters-assemblers. Requirements: the existence of a Polish working visa for at least 3 months, 1 year of experience in this specialty, an ability to use a welding machine, a good level of welding, it is obligatory to read blueprints. After 1.5-2 months of work in Poland workers are sent for work in Germany. The salary of welders is €8 per hour, and for mechanics – €7 per hour. Accommodation of €250 a month is subtracted with wages, and food is at your own expense. The first month is 8 hours per day of work, then 10-12 hours. Transport to Germany is at the expense of the employer. €200 is kept from the first salary”.

In Ukraine, meanwhile, experts fear that after the German labor market opens up, labor migration will suck out of Ukraine what remains of qualified labor.

“There is a need to reform the country, to make it non-toxic for investments, to raise the standard of living – this is the main recipe that will help to halt labor migration,” believes Voskoboynik.

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