‘Better working and living conditions’: Germany agrees law to improve meat industry

Germany will ban the use of subcontractors in slaughterhouses after a string of Covid-19 outbreaks earlier this year were traced to poor working and living conditions faced by migrant workers.

'Better working and living conditions': Germany agrees law to improve meat industry
The Tönnies factory. Photo: DPA

“We are putting an end to subcontracting in the meat industry from January 1st, 2021,” Labour Minister Hubertus Heil said on Friday after a draft law was agreed by the government.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet had agreed in May to change the law but the details had been the source of some disagreement between the Social Democrats and the conservative CDU, the two parties in the coalition government.

The CDU had been pushing for exceptions to allow temporary workers to help produce sausages during the busy summer barbecue season.

The draft law bans subcontracting in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants but does allow for some temporary work in meat processing.

It will now be debated in parliament in December.

Welcoming the new legislation, Social Democrat MP Katja Mast said it is intended to create “better working and living conditions for all employees in the industry.”

“This (law) puts an end to a business model that has existed for far too long — a business model which, through Corona, has once again revealed its worst side,” she said.

Several Covid-19 outbreaks at slaughterhouses in Germany have put a spotlight on the living and working conditions faced by the workers — many of whom came from Romania or Bulgaria.

The subcontacted workers on low wages were often put up in temporary crowded housing, creating a hotbed for the spread of infection.

In June, more than 1,500 workers were infected at Tönnies, Germany's largest meat producer by both output and turnover.

Tönnies, which employs 7,000 people in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia state, has since announced its own measures to improve conditions, including direct contracts with employees and “sufficient and appropriate” living space.

READ ALSO: Germany's largest slaughterhouse reopens – under stricter conditions



Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sued the German parliament for removing some of his official post-retirement perks over his links to Russian energy giants, his lawyer said Friday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Schröder, 78, has come under heavy criticism for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and involvement with state-backed energy companies.

The decision to suspend Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office and staff in May was “contrary to the rule of law”, Michael Nagel, told public broadcaster NDR.

Schröder “heard of everything through the media”, Nagel said, noting that the Social Democrat had asked for a hearing before the budget committee responsible but was not given the chance to express himself.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over Russia ties

Schröder’s lawyers filed the complaint with an administrative Berlin court, a spokesman for the court confirmed.

In its decision to strip him of the perks, the committee concluded that Schröder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

Most of Schröder’s office staff had already quit before the final ruling was made.

Despite resigning from the board of Russian oil company Rosneft and turning down a post on the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in May, Schröder has maintained close ties with the Kremlin.

The former chancellor met Putin in July, after which he said Moscow was ready for a “negotiated solution” to the war in Ukraine — comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week, the Social Democrats concluded that Schröder would be allowed to remain a member after he was found not have breached party rules over his ties to the Russian President.

Schröder’s stance on the war and solo diplomacy has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.