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Wildcat strike in Gräfenhausen: truck drivers go on hunger strike

They have been demanding their wages at a rest stop in Hesse for over seven weeks. Now 30 truck drivers have gone on hunger strike.

One person holds up a piece of paper.

10440 €, this driver in Gräfenhausen is waiting for this unpaid wage Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa

BERLIN taz | Around 30 striking truck drivers in Gräfenhausen, Hesse, have gone on hunger strike. This was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon by Edwin Atema from the European Transport Workers’ Union, who was appointed by the drivers as an intermediary. The hunger strike officially began at 4 p.m. The drivers retreated together into several truck trailers.

In total, around 100 truck drivers from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Turkey have been waiting at the Gräfenhausen East and West service areas for over seven weeks and are demanding their outstanding wages with a “wildcat strike”. The Mazur Group from Poland is said to owe them a total of around half a million euros. The company denies this. It is the longest known strike by truckers in Europe.

Some drivers threatened to go on hunger strike at the beginning of August and again last week. “They are desperate and don’t know what else to do,” Atema told taz. “I’ve been doing this work for a very long time, but I’ve never experienced anything like this.” He is also not an “expert on hunger strikes” and doesn’t know what will happen next. He informed the police. In the evening he wanted to sit down with other supporters and discuss how to proceed.

According to Atema, the hunger strikers did not give a deadline for their action. They simply asked Atema to inform the companies involved in the supply chain about their action. He started doing this but has not yet received any response.

Companies from Germany and Austria are clients

Although the trucks belong to Polish companies, they operate almost exclusively in Western Europe. The clients are companies from Germany and Austria, among others, but there are often several subcontractors between Mazur and them. The drivers had recently made public the names of companies and brands whose goods they had loaded or which were involved in the supply chain as logistics companies.

These include Porsche, Audi, VW, DHL, the furniture retailer Poco, the energy drink manufacturer Redbull and the hardware stores Obi and Bauhaus. Ikea was also mentioned in this context. All of these companies denied to the taz that they were working with Mazur.

In the past few weeks, two logisticians from Austria involved in the supply chain had paid out a total of 40,000 euros to the drivers as wage deposits. They divided the money among themselves. Last week, according to Atema, a representative of a “large German logistics company” came to Gräfenhausen, who only discovered after more than six weeks that his goods were stored in the Hessian rest area. “This is the situation in the supply chains,” said Atema. The logistician has not traded yet, but Atema hopes that he will contact him with an offer soon.

On Friday, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) also commented on the strike in Gräfenhausen, initially in the Frankfurter Rundschau. “Truck drivers keep our country and our economy running. We will not tolerate cheating them out of their hard-earned wages,” said Heil. “The desperate truck drivers in Gräfenhausen need our support. I appeal to large German companies to live up to their responsibility when choosing their freight forwarders.”

Special test announced

Heil announced a special audit of companies involved in the Mazur supply chain within the framework of the Supply Chain Act. The Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) is responsible for violations of the law, which came into force in January. The BAFA has had the issue of Gräfenhagen in mind since the first reporting, a spokeswoman for the BMAS told the taz.

The authority has been closely monitoring current developments since then. “Among other things, BAFA has initiated requests for information from companies that, according to reports, are associated with the “Mazur Group” as clients. The BMAS cannot provide any information about details of ongoing controls and investigations. Atema welcomes the fact that the Federal Minister of Labor has intervened and hopes: “These are certainly not empty words.”

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