Friday, September 28, 2018

EU Road Haulage Regulations Ignored as Transport Unions Criticise Major Retailer

Evidence That Eastern European HGV Drivers Routinely Underpaid
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – Last year Swedish founded and Netherlands based retail giant IKEA was the subject of an extremely critical BBC video report which exposed the group's road haulage suppliers subcontractors as clearly breaking the EU rules governing the conduct of employers towards staff, specifically HGV drivers, when working in countries other than their own.

These supply chain problems should have been plain to see according to transport unions as IKEA claims to have a thorough auditing process covering all aspects of its purchase, collection and delivery of goods, IWAY, to ensure fair conduct for all involved. The BBC report prompted both the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF), which say they had already been in talks with IKEA for many years about resolving labour abuses, to redouble their efforts.

Now the unions say they have pulled out of further meetings with IKEA after the company showed little or no interest in discussing and resolving the problems. The BBC film reveals that, whilst Danish HGV drivers would normally net a salary in the region of €1,900 per month drivers from countries such as Lithuania and Bulgaria often take wages equating to €4-500, with some Moldovan drivers, a country actively pursuing EU membership, saying they earn as little as €150.

Under the regulations covering drivers employment the EU decrees that a worker should be paid the same equivalent wage as a resident would receive. The reasons for this are twofold, firstly it ensures that the driver can adequately support himself whilst working away from home, particularly when there is a vast disparity in the cost of living. The regulation also ensure a level playing field so imported drivers do not undercut local labour leading to regional unemployment and animosity to migrant workers.

The lack of funds means Eastern European drivers treated in this manner are unable to take accommodation and resort to sleeping in their cabs, clearly breaching another EU directive which demands weekly rest periods must be taken away from the vehicle. Some drivers have been filmed being bussed into other countries to collect their rigs, yet another breach, and many claim to be working away from home for up to 4 months (Article 2 Paragraphs 2 & 3).

Road Haulage Association (RHA) spokesman Jack Semple says in the film the companies are ‘driving coach and horses through the regulations’. Now, in a letter to IKEA, ETF president Frank Moreels comments:

"The ITF, the ETF and our respective affiliates have sought to engage with IKEA in good faith and freely given you our help in an attempt to resolve what we view as problems in IKEA’s supply chain. We have presented IKEA with case studies and reports from various authorities demonstrating breaches of labour standards by various transport companies used by IKEA.

"However, it appears that IKEA has not used the information supplied by our affiliates as a means to resolve cases, pursue companies acting inappropriately, or for the creation of solutions to the problems raised. IKEA has instead chosen to remain rooted in its existing IWAY approach, rather that moving towards a practical cooperation to a formal bargaining forum. Meaningful dialogue and practical cooperation can be used as a tool to find solutions to problems. However, we have unfortunately found that IKEA has demonstrated little willingness to cooperate and that very little tangible progress has been made towards our ultimate goal of Fair Transport."

Now, due to the perceived intransigence and reluctance to discuss the matter by IKEA, the ITF and ETF affiliated unions have agreed to end further discussions with the company until after the ITF Congress, 14-20 October 2018, in Singapore. At Congress, ITF road unions will discuss the next steps.

Photo: Two drivers cook up breakfast whilst parked outside their IKEA collection point over a weekend.