xx news, human rights
“Heads down, do not look left or right when you weed" -- hearing such commands from a supervisor was routine for female workers in Austria. Just like working from early morning until 9 pm, low wages and lamentable accommodation. A worker, who prefers to remain anonymous, has made grave allegations against her employer, a farmer from Lower Austria. "I felt like a slave," she told Katrin Burgstaller from Der Standard.
Burgstaller’s piece sheds light on a subject that is invisible to us most of the time -- modern slavery in the so-called “first world”. The women she described work in catering and cleaning companies or as harvest workers, and are entangled in semi-legal dependency relationships. The majority of the seasonal workers come from Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. To most of us, they are only anonymous figures and dry statistics.
“They are often robbed of a lot of money, which is commercial fraud," claims René Schindler, a lawyer at a production union.
The law regulates the field of harvest work but many seasonal workers are exempt from it as they have never signed an employment contract. Hence, legislation concerning overtime and the minimal wage does not apply in their case.
This multimedia feature by Der Standard reveals the desolate condition of the premises, and gives a face to well-known yet ignored statistics.