Danish Crown under German fire

Meat producer Danish Crown has been accused of employing underpaid Polish workers at its plants in Germany. The company denies the allegations, but says stricter labour rules are in order

German labour union NGG has accused Danish meat producer Danish Crown of employing underpaid Polish workers at its slaughterhouses in Germany.

That would explain why Danish Crown has closed down a number of its plants in Denmark and moved their operations to Oldenburg and Boizenburg in Germany in order to cut labour costs, daily newspaper Information reported.

Matthias Brümmer, local chairman in Oldenburg for NGG, the organization of German workers in the food industry, told the newspaper that Danish Crown employed half of its 200 workers in Oldenburg through a mediator in Poland.

"The Polish workers are officially employed in Poland," Brümmer said. "That means that the Polish workers in Oldenburg get their wages paid in Poland, on Polish conditions."

Brümmer said Polish workers only received approximately DKK 37 (EUR 5) per hour for their work, while their German colleagues received DKK 74 (EUR 10) for the same work.

Danish Crown's spokesmen said in a statement on Monday that they rejected any allegations of 'wage slavery', but said stricter labour regulations were needed in Germany.

The company said many of its workers were employed through subcontractors, who were hired to carry out some specific tasks.

Danish Crown said this procedure was common in Germany, and said stricter regulations on labour import were in order.

"If political action results in the restriction of these rules, it would not go against Danish Crown's interests, but contribute to the safeguarding of competition condition on the German market," the company said in its statement. "The responsibility lies with German politicians."

The company conceded that workers in Germany received lower wages than those employed in Denmark, but said it was forced to cut labour costs to be fit for competition.

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