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Bake-off: How one bakery worker took on a non-paying company - and won

Published on Aug 25, 2020
Anyone who travels by train knows them: The small stalls of the coffee and snack chains on the platforms. One of them did not go to great lengths to pay her workers - until a FAU-member pointed this out a little more emphatically.

Although it's an open secret that the working conditions of most wage workers are not exactly sunny, you might think that there are some lines that even the most exploitative company simply won't cross.
But you would be wrong. Some companies don't even pay their workers their contractually agreed wages – as was recently the case for several employees of the train station bakery and snack bar chain CUCCIS.

What happened? Was it hoped the employees wouldn't notice the lack of money in their bank accounts? Had the payments simply fallen through the cracks of the bosses' stressful everyday working lives? This is of course a possibility - at least in theory. In actual fact, however, one of the workers (now a FAU member) sent out countless inquiries and reminders, both verbal and in writing, as a letter, via email, and by text - to no avail. Instead, the payment was postponed over and over again for undisclosed reasons. And this was not a matter of a couple of days, the delay went on for weeks.

Before joining the FAU, our member initially turned to BEMA, the Berlin advice centre for migration and good working practices, who recommended taking the grievance to the Berlin labour court and provided the corresponding form. The court hearing was then scheduled to take place two weeks later. Our member, who went on to represent himself in court, sat down to research how the procedure works - a rather tedious way to spend your time, especially if you have to do it alone. Fortunately, it did not stay that way for long: A friend passed on the contact details of FAU Berlin and a team got together online to help our new member prepare for the court hearing. A few days before the court date, things suddenly started moving - CUCCIS remembered that they had to pay their employees. The company applied to have the case withdrawn and finally paid their debts - not only to our member but also to numerous other employees who had also been waiting for their wages for weeks.

"It is no piece of cake to win this kind of case but also not impossible", says FAU member and former CUCCIS worker. "If you want to get your rights from your employer, you have to prepare yourself. Prepare your file and take all your documents as proof with you before appearing in court. It will give you the confidence to win the case." Of course, it is grossly unfair for employees to have to put in all the extra (unpaid) hours over and over again to fight against non-paying bosses only to get what they were entitled to in the first place. But none of these hours are wasted: Once it has been compiled, this knowledge can be very useful - not only for yourself, but for your colleagues as well. The FAU is currently advising
another worker at CUCCIS's sister company scoom who is facing the same issue. Let us hope, that CUCCIS and all their affiliated companies will remember to pay the employees on time in the future.

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Click here to get to the FAU Berlin's English membership formThe FAU Berlin is an independent grassroots union. It is part of the German Free Workers' Union (FAU) federation. Join us, take part, get active.

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