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Help Greek working single mom fight for justice

Published on Mar 11, 2014 Tags: ,
Single mom worked hard but her boss won't pay her. He knows she can't afford arbitration, so please donate to cover her legal fees.

The FAU Berlin's foreigners' section is supporting Eleftheria K's crowdfunding drive on Indiegogo. Please visit the campaign webpage to contribute:

Here is Eleftheria's story:

In November 2012, I signed a contract to work freelance for a company registered in Germany but run out of Dubai. The contract stipulated that I work as a consultant to prepare the international launch of a "matrimonial network inspired by an old arab tradition". The owner, Yassin, agreed to pay me 1600 dollars a month.

I worked until July 2012, but was never paid my last month's salary. Yassin said he wouldn't pay because in his view I performed poorly. In my opinion though, I performed services above and beyond what the contract called for. Even if I did perform poorly, there was no provision in the contract which allowed him to deduct my wages or withhold it completely.

Normally such a disagreement between a company and freelancer would be a routine matter for German courts. However, my contract states that disputes must be settled by the German Institute for Arbitration (Deutsche Institution fuer Schiedsgerichtbarkeit; DIS). Proceedings there are much more expensive than in German courts and average disputes are about millions of euros. If I want to take Yassin to the DIS, I have to pay legal fees up front amounting to more than a month's wages. If Yassin decides to declare bankrupcy, I might never get paid and might be left sitting on legal fees even if I win the case.

What's more, I am a single mother living in Greece. I have to work to sustain myself and my daughter as there is no social safety net. I do not have a month's wage to spend on arbitration. Each month's work and the resulting pay check is essential for survival. Yassin is well aware of this.

You could almost suspect that Yassin slipped the DIS clause into the contract in order to avoid paying my last months wages, knowing I was not aware of and unable to pay the costs associated with the DIS. Could it be that Yassin followed the simple strategy: Eleftheria has no money, ergo she cannot take me to court, ergo I can rip her off.

Nowadays a lot of us work online. Work can be hard to come by, so some work for bosses far away in countries where they are not aware of their rights. We don't always have the time or resources to check the fine print of contracts. It is hard to know who to trust and we can be duped. In a situation such as mine, we can capitulate or fight. I choose to fight. Help me, and teach those who seek to deceive us a lesson in solidarity. Please contribute to my legal fees so I can take my case to an arbitrator.

I know there is a chance I may not manage to collect the total of sum required to bring Yassin to the DIS, but even in this case, I will use the amount collected (whatever that may be)  to challenge my contract clause in front of a civil court.

And if I do manage to bring him to either arbitration or court and win, Yassin (unless he pleads bankruptcy) will have to cover all legal cost. In that case, I will donate the legal fees refunded to me. Part of it will go to the FAU, a union in Germany that has helped me, so that other workers struggling for their rights can find help. Another part will go to The Smile of The Child (ΤΟ ΧΑΜΟΓΕΛΟ ΤΟΥ ΠΑΙΔΙΟΥ), a non-profit organization which takes care of abandoned children.

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FAU Berlin is currently restructuring! This means that we are reducing some of our public activities, to focus on our strategy for the future. Throughout this time we are still providing support to our membership. If you are a member and need assistance, don't hesitate to contact your section/workplace group, or drop into our open Lokal on Fridays.

Intro and advice
Introductory seminar: FAU – How does it work? - Cancelled until further notice.
Open FAU office: Every Friday, 5:00–8:00 PM.
union help desk: always on the 2. and 4. Friday of the month, 6:30 – 7:30 PM.
Please read first!
Tenant rights help desk: Cancelled until further notice.
Advice for worker and business collectives: See the advice page (german) of the union coop // federation.
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Donations welcome

Name: Allgemeines Syndikat Berlin
IBAN: DE45 1605 0000 3703 0017 11
Reason for payment: Donation