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No money: Dozens of truck drivers are on strike on the A5 – they say their boss owes them some of their wages for several months

Photo: Arne Dedert / dpa

The strike of Eastern European truck drivers in the dispute over allegedly outstanding wage demands has reached a new level. For the second time this year, dozens of truck drivers have been standing at a rest stop on the A5 for weeks because, as they say, they have not received their wages for months. The freight forwarder, on the other hand, even called in the police – and spoke of blackmail.

Now, according to Edwin Atema of the European Transport Workers' Union, 30 of the 80 drivers currently on strike have gone on hunger strike. "For them, it's the last resort," Atema told SPIEGEL on the phone. And Vladimir Pilauri, one of the drivers who went on hunger strike on Tuesday, says that while he has heard so many words of support from business and politics, "my families at home must still be starving." They have been trapped in this situation for weeks. The hunger strike is now "his last hope". He is ready to "see the strike through to the end," says the 49-year-old Georgian.

The background to the strike is wage demands from drivers from Georgia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, among others, to their Polish freight forwarder. In Gräfenhausen, around 60 drivers of the same company had already gone on strike in April, and they were able to enforce their demands after six weeks.

The labor dispute at the time drew increased attention to working conditions in international freight transport: drivers who often work well over eight hours, drive in trucks for months and – if at all – only receive the minimum wage of eastern states. The trade unions have been demanding for a long time: equal pay for equal work in the same place.

With regard to working conditions, Atema is targeting the companies in the supply chains in this second strike, which would have promised improvement after the first strike. "The drivers' hands are still empty," says the Dutchman.

The trade union Ver.di is also demanding that the companies in the supply chain have to pay for the outstanding financial claims of the drivers. The Federal Office of Economics and Export Control must become active "and hold all companies involved accountable," according to the statement.