Shipyard Veka in Lemmer risks claiming millions after underpayment

The court in Leeuwarden on Thursday found Veka Shipyard in Lemmer guilty of underpaying dozens of Romanian employees for years. The shipyard now risks a claim of millions of euros from the – now – former employees. This is evident from the judgment published this Thursday.

The case started five years ago, after employees complained to the FNV trade union about their low wages. Under their contract, dozens of Romanians were paid 1.28 an hour, says FNV director Albert Kuiper – “the Romanian minimum wage”. In addition, they received an ‘expense allowance’, a handful of cash, which earned them a total of about 8 euros per hour. A welder earns at least 17 euros in the Netherlands, says Kuiper. The Romanians also worked “long hours” and had no vacation days and, moreover, did not accrue pension, according to Kuiper. The FNV had little to say about the working conditions.

The FNV passed the information on to the SZW Inspectorate, which confronted the shipyard with the complaints after an investigation. But Veka, according to Kuiper, hid behind other subcontractors by saying they were responsible for the foreign forces working at the shipyard. “A sham construction”, according to the court, which allowed the collective labor agreement to be evaded. “A crooks area” says Kuiper, who aims to cover yourself, “purely to earn as much money as possible”.

After the first visit, Veka promised to improve. She would fix the underpayment. When, after a second visit by the FNV, it turned out that Veka no longer paid ‘black’, but the Romanians were still earning below the minimum wage, FNV went to court, says Kuiper.

The court prohibits Veka from ‘making any longer use of hired employees who are not remunerated in accordance with the financial employment conditions’ in the Netherlands. Moreover, Veka is liable ‘for subsequent payment of the back wages of the Romanian employees’. Converted to two million euros, according to Kuiper.

According to the FNV director, it is circulating among the Romanian forces that they can file a hefty claim for damages. Kuiper is not only concerned with the Romanians, he says. Apparent constructions encourage unfair competition, he says, and you help destroy the market. Veka has been contacted repeatedly by telephone, but was not available for comment.

A version of this article also appeared in on October 23, 2020

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