Working hours / Occupational health and safety

Working hours / Occupational health and safety

Example case
Miklos expects a lot from his work in Germany. As he did not earn much in Hungary, he gave up his job and came to Germany to work as a truck driver for a transport company. He gets better pay at the transport company, but he has to work a lot. Miklos is on the road with his truck from 07:00 to 01:00 02:00. The next morning he has to leave at 07:00. His employer has instructed him to set the tachometer to “work time break” when he is busy unloading, loading or cleaning the truck. He does not receive any additional money for the work in the additional hours and at night.

Miklos does not always manage to take a break after driving for four and a half hours. He can often only do so after six hours. His supervisor puts a lot of pressure on him: He calls Miklos and says if he does not make it, he should just do the trick with the tachometer that he showed him. He has also threatened him with immediate dismissal if Miklos refuses to follow these instructions. Miklos is afraid of following the instructions, but also of losing his job. He spends his weekends in the truck at rest stops. He has no money for hotels. In addition, he is not allowed to leave the truck’s load unattended. The weekly break between the routes lasts for him only 24 hours. Miklos feels exhausted. He does not know the German working time regulations and does not know whether his overtime is okay. He wants to know which institution can help him in this situation.

1. Federal Office for Logistics and Mobility (BALM)

The working, driving and rest times for truck drivers in Germany must be strictly adhered to. This is to ensure that they get enough rest and are not overtired on the motorways. After four and a half hours driving time at the latest, Miklos must take a break of at least 45 minutes. After six hours of work, Miklos has to take another break of at least 30 minutes. Miklos is not allowed to sit behind the wheel regularly for more than nine hours a day. His daily rest time should not be shorter than eleven hours. In his case, these regulations are not adhered to.

The weekly rest period should last 45 hours. It can be shortened to 24 hours, however, the missing hours of rest must be added to a rest period of at least nine hours. The settlement must take place within the next three weeks.

In Germany, the police, the Occupational health and safety authorities and the Federal Office for Logistics and Mobility (BALM) are responsible for monitoring these regulations.

Miklos can meet the BALM officials mainly at roadside checks. If the BALM detects violations, both Miklos and his employer can be punished with fines and, in the case of serious violations, even with imprisonment. The BALM also checks whether the truck drivers observe the weekly rest period of at least 45 hours and whether they spend it outside the driver’s cab as intended. In this case, too, Miklos and his employer face fines. Miklos can contact the BALM and report the employer.

Miklos can also find information about working conditions in Germany in Hungarian on the website of the Office for the Equal Treatment of EU Workers:

https://www.eu-gleichbehandlungsstelle.de/eugs-en/eu-citizens/information-center/working-conditions

2. Police

The police often carry out joint road checks with the Federal Office for Logistics an Mobility. It is also responsible for checking and punishing violations of the driving and rest times. In this way, the police protect road safety. Miklos can file a complaint with the police because his employer tried to force him to manipulate the tachometer. The behaviour of the employer may be punishable by law.

3. Occupational health and safety authority

The Occupational health and safety authorities are organised according to Federal States. They monitor compliance with occupational health and safety regulations, including working hours, driving times and rest times. They also carry out their controls in workplaces. Miklos can find the responsible Occupational health and safety authority in this document:

https://www.baua.de/DE/Themen/ Arbeitsgestaltung-im-Betrieb/Branchen/ Bauwirtschaft/Baustellenverordnung/ pdf/Arbeitsschutzbehoerden. pdf?__blob=publicationFile

Miklos can contact the responsible Occupational health and safety authority on site and provide information about working hours and threats from the employer. This report should be well justified and with proof. Miklos can submit his own time records for example. The company can be checked because of his report. The name of Miklos is not given to the employer if Miklos does not want it. He must tell the authority this when reporting. His employer is then contacted and if the violations are confirmed, and can be punished.

4. Trade unions

The trade unions in Germany are organised according to industry. Drivers are looked after by the union ver.di. Miklos can join the union. His employer will not find out about this. As a trade union member, Miklos will receive trade union legal protection: He can get advice on labour law. After three months of membership in a union, he can also be represented in court by the union. The local ver.di address can be found using this search engine:

https://www.verdi.de/ueber-uns/verdi-international/++co++0da83724-a114-11e2-9997-52540059119e

Miklos can find the membership declarations in several languages (including Hungarian) on the ver.di website:

https://www.verdi.de/++co++a9c223c4-bcdf- 11e0-53c5-00093d114afd

It is advisable that Miklos speak to his work colleagues and that they join the union together. The more workers in the company are represented by the union, the better their negotiating position. With the help of the union, they can then defend themselves against some problems such as threats or inadmissible overtime. Of course, ver.di can also demand payment from the employer to Miklos.

5. Advice centre/Labour court

If Miklos decides not to join a union because, for example, the language barrier is too great or he needs help immediately, he can turn to a union-related Advice centre for labour law. In many German cities there are Advice centres from Arbeit und Leben e.V. or Faire Mobility that offer advice in several languages and free of charge:

Specific employment law Advice centres:

https://bema.berlin/en/

https://www.arbeitundleben.de/arbeitsfelder/beratungsnetzwerk

https://www.faire-mobilitaet.de/en

Miklos can find an overview of all Advice centres according to subject and language here:

https://www.eu-gleichbehandlungsstelle.de/eugs-en/eu-citizens/searching-for-an-advice-centre

Every overtime hour has to be paid to Miklos. The hours between 23:00 and 06:00 count as night time. If Miklos has worked night time for more than two hours, he must receive the night allowance. It is usually 25%. None of the above-mentioned control authorities is responsible for ensuring that Miklos receives the rightful wage for overtime and night allowances. Only he can demand this from the employer himself.

The Advice centre supports Miklos in preparing evidence for the wage claim. An extract from the driver card is helpful here. On this basis, Miklos can write down his daily working hours. The driver card can be read out at any DEKRA point:

https://www.dekra.de/de/standorte/

Miklos can also have the card read out free of charge by the Occupational health and safety authorities:

https://www.baua.de/EN/Home/Home_node.html

On the basis of the documented working hours, the Advice centre can help Miklos to calculate the money he is entitled to and ask the employer to pay. If the employer does not pay the claims voluntarily, Miklos has to taken legal action against the employer in the Labour court. Further information on this procedure can be found in Chapter 2.

6. Financial control of illegal employment (FKS)

If overtime is not paid, the employer has usually not paid social security contributions in full and has violated the minimum wage law. Therefore, Miklos can report the case to the Financial control of illegal employment (FKS), a department of the German customs. The address of the office can be found at:

https://www.zoll.de/EN/Contact/Enquiries/General-enquiries/general-enquiries_node.html

The FKS can start the investigation and punish the employer. This can deter employers from similar legal violations in the future and protect other truck drivers.

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