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Mall of Shame

A conflict concerning outstanding wages for construction workers of the "Mall of Berlin".

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Mall of Shame - built on exploitation

For the construction of the shopping and residential complex “Mall of Berlin”, which had its grand opening in the autumn of 2014, in spite of unfinished building sites and faulty fire safety, various subcontracting companies let hundreds of migrant workers from Romania toil for ten hours a day for five or six euros an hour, according to workers from this construction site. In the end, not even this illegally low wage was paid to the employees in full.

One of the construction workers explains: “We were not only denied our wages: we were threatened on multiple occasions, including threats of violence, and our lack of German-language skills was exploited by our employers. We were denied written employment contracts and were provided with completely inadequate and exorbitantly priced sleeping quarters, or no accommodation at all.” At many construction sites in Germany, such shocking exploitation and degrading treatment seems to be business as usual. What’s new is that now the cheated workers are fighting back! A group of these workers have gotten organized in the FAU Berlin, to fight for the wages they are owed.

Another colleague says: ”I had two goals when we started the protests: Firstly, I wanted to fight for our dignity, secondly, I wanted to fight for our money.” He pauses. ”The first, we’ve already achieved.” With daily rallies and a vocal demonstration before Christmas 2014, the base union FAU made the ”Mall of Shame” into a symbol for the exploitation of migrant workers from EU countries, and, as the newspaper Märkische Allgemeine writes at the end of January, ”a subject of the news commentary of all Berlin media”.

The construction of the ”Mall of Berlin” cost about one billion Euros, according to the Berlin-Brandenburg broadcasting network rbb. It was commissioned by HGHI Leipziger Platz GmbH, and the completion was done by the consortium ”Arbeitsgemeinschaft Leipziger Platz No. 12” under the management of Fettchenhauer Controlling und Logistic GmbH, which has since declared bankruptcy. Directly responsible for the wage sham are the subcontractors Metatec-Fundus GmbH & Co. KG from Berlin-Kreuzberg, and openmallmaster GmbH from Frankfurt am Main, but the main responsibility for the conditions at the construction site lies with the consortium and finally with the commissioner.

This responsibility is not only a moral responsibility, but a responsibility dictated by law. ”A contractor who commissions work or services from another contractor, is liable for the obligations of this contractor ... for the payment of the minimum wage to employees ... as a bondsman.”

In 2015 and 2016 most of the lawsuits against the subcontractors were successful, but - as was to be expected - the questionable subcontractors declared bankruptcy or went underground. Now in 2017, the Romanian construction workers, with support of FAU Berlin, have proceeded to file lawsuits against the responsible commissioner, Harald Huth’s Leipziger Platz GmbH & Co. KG.

FAU Berlin will continue the fight, and the Romanian workers who organized themselves in FAU Berlin are willing to go through all court instances if necessary, to set a precedent that will be beneficial for other workers. We keep up our challenge against shameless exploitation and those who profit from it.

If you want to support the costly legal procedures, please donate: Donation info.

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