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Services: Ban on subcontractors in the parcel industry is controversial

Services: Ban on subcontractors in the parcel industry is controversial

Subcontractors in the parcel industry do not have a good reputation. Trade unionists report lousy working conditions, customs officers carry out raids. Now the call is getting louder for legal action.

With the reform of the outdated postal law, calls are becoming louder to limit or completely ban the controversial use of subcontractors. After the majority of the Federal Council voted in favor of a ban on parcel subcontractors who are not bound by collective agreements at the beginning of February, the Green Bundestag member and former Verdi boss Frank Bsirske has now reiterated his call for legal tightening to put a stop to the “exploitation” of parcel couriers to advance.

He is in favor of a ban on the use of sub-subcontractors and sub-sub-subcontractors – i.e. a ban on passing on orders again to other companies. The German trade association warns of the negative consequences of such a regulation.

Thousands of subcontractors now work for the large parcel service providers, often in unclear sub-sub-contractor chains, Bsirske told the German Press Agency. Employees – often from Eastern Europe – often have contracts with two companies, for example for loading and delivery. There are often abuses such as 14-hour days, dumping wages and sleeping in transport vehicles. Medium-sized companies in the industry with correct working conditions would be left behind. Customs are also aware of the grievances. He keeps an eye on the industry every now and then, last fall with a nationwide raid by 3,100 officers. In doing so, he uncovered legal violations.

“Continuation of violation of the law threatens”

At the beginning of February, the Federal Council called for a ban on external personnel in sorting, loading and delivery and thus on work contracts and subcontractor chains. If the subcontractors are bound by collective agreements, they are allowed to operate.

The federal government sees it differently than the state chamber. From the government’s point of view, the planned reviews of companies are sufficient, as can be seen from a response from the government to the state demands. Bsirske objected: The authorities could hardly control the mobile workers in the confusing industry. “There is a risk of a continuation of the systematic violation of the law,” he warned. Therefore, only one subcontractor should be allowed and not chains of subcontractors.

This view is also represented by SPD member of the Bundestag Sebastian Roloff. He would even generally ban subcontractors in the industry. However, the subcontractor chains in particular are a thorn in his side – eliminating them is his priority.

FDP warns of “poison for competition”

There is opposition from the coalition partner FDP. “A ban on subcontractors would be poisonous for competition in the parcel industry,” said Reinhard Houben. DHL’s competitors in particular are dependent on the use of these companies. In addition, the FDP member of the Bundestag considers the assumption to be “simply wrong” “that working conditions in the parcel market are poor across the board and that occupational safety standards are structurally undermined.”

Black sheep must be effectively sorted out, said Houben. “This is regulated by the amendment to the law with the strict requirements that companies must meet in order to be able to register as a provider of postal services.” The use of sub-subcontractors also makes sense in certain cases. Subcontractor liability was therefore introduced in the Parcel Messenger Protection Act in 2019.

The Biek parcel association, which speaks for the competition from the market leader DHL, considers contractual partnerships to be “indispensable for the parcel industry”. “The entrepreneurial creativity of thousands of contractual partners contributes to the creation of jobs and the industry makes a decisive contribution to society with its added value,” says a statement from Biek.

Market leader DHL, which only has around two percent of its parcel volume transported by subcontractors, is in favor of a ban on sub-subcontractors. According to its own statement, the Bonn-based company has not concluded such contract structures.

Criticism from the trade association

The German Trade Association (HDE) was critical of the demands for stricter regulations. “The postal law is the wrong place for measures to comply with labor and social security working conditions,” said HDE managing director Steven Haarke. There is already independent legislation and specialized supervisory authorities for this. If the regulations in the postal law were to be tightened anyway, small and medium-sized companies would risk leaving the market.

The question is also still open as to whether two delivery people will be needed in the future for parcels that weigh more than 20 kilos. According to the government proposal, technical aids are sufficient; the Federal Council is in favor of a two-delivery requirement. This point also causes discomfort for the HDE. The Federal Council’s stance “goes far beyond the mark and is not appropriate,” says Haarke. The majority of parcels in the parcel market weigh less than five kilograms.

First debate in the Bundestag

The Bundestag debated the amendment in plenary for the first time on Wednesday evening. The Social Democrat Roloff underscored his demand for stricter regulations for subcontractors. It is unacceptable that customs checks at these companies regularly uncover cases of bogus self-employment, fake identification documents and minimum wage violations. “Customs speaks of cases of serious and organized crime in parcel services, so the need for regulation will have to be used here too,” said the SPD MP.

There will be discussions in the Bundestag in the coming weeks, followed by a vote. Then it is the Federal Council’s turn. The reform is expected to be completed in the spring.

Source: Stern

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