Bulgarians and Romanians Treated as Slaves in a Slaughterhouse in Germany
Inhumane exploitation of workers from Bulgaria and Romania in a slaughterhouse in Germany has revealed a documentary broadcast on SAT 1. Its author, journalist Jana Bernhard, told Nova TV how she sent undercover a Bulgarian worker with two university diplomas, to study the working conditions in the meat-packing plant of billionaire Clemens Tönnies.
The slaughterhouse became famous in 2020 when the largest mass infection with coronavirus broke out there - over 2,000 staff members. For the first time, the German media reveal facts about the lives of Bulgarian and Romanian workers there.
"I worked in the Tönnies slaughterhouses for two years and we rarely finished after the agreed eight hours. In most cases, we worked 12-13 hours. We entered the extra hours in the books, but in the end, this was not reflected in the pay slips," said a Romanian in front of Deutsche Welle in June 2020. People are forced to live with 8-10 or more people in one apartment and each is obliged to pay 200 euros monthly rent. The buildings are owned by companies related to the slaughterhouse and the rent is 2-3 times higher than usual for this area.
It was very cold and humid, the conveyor belts moving very fast. In our common apartment at night, I heard my colleagues crying - from the severe pain and swollen hands. But we encouraged each other. We said to ourselves, "Hold on!” says the worker.
Then the owner of the slaughterhouse, Tönnies, apologized to the German media. "Above all, people are important to me and I want to apologize to them," he promised.
Then Jana Bernhard's TV team from "SAT 1" decided to check whether the owner would really change the working conditions in his slaughterhouses.
The Bulgarian, working undercover for the investigation and named Milena in the film, is facing nightmarish rules set out in employment contracts. It is forbidden to go to the toilet, it is forbidden to eat or drink water in the halls. It is allowed only during short breaks, says Milena.
People work with blood in their ankles, slaughter animals every day - extremely hard work, the investigation found.
"We met with people who lost more than 20 kg in a short time because they did not have the opportunity to eat. All this is written in the employment contract, it is legal, but it is inhumane," she said. An ambulance doctor says in the film that a worker hanged himself. "It's about second-hand people, people to be thrown away, who are simply replaced with the next ones after they are depreciated," said the German journalist.
The TV crew went to the scene and met with Bulgarian and Romanian workers, but they were afraid to talk. "The ignorance and language barriers of these people are being systematically abused so that the company can earn more on their behalf," Bernhard said.
The people of the Balkans are the perfect slaves. They are doing work that a German would never agree to do, Milena commented. She explains that she has two university diplomas in Bulgaria, but "in my country, I have no chance to work in the specialty I studied."
Bernhard sees the same reason for the exploitation of educated people from both Balkan countries. "In the media, life in Germany is praised: 'Oh, come to Germany and earn good money!” She was quoted as saying.
Her film crew was stopped by police cars that tried to obstruct the filming. "There is a connection between billionaire Tönnies and local law enforcement," Bernhard said. Shortly before the film aired, Tönnies' lawyers sent a threatening letter, but that didn't stop the team. "The main goal of our film is to take away the fear of workers because the saddest thing is that for them it's okay. In Germany, workers have rights, but they just don't know them," she said.
She describes everything seen as "modern slavery", which exploits poor educated people to enrich the owners of a German company.
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