Protective measures for harvest workers: rotten food, room for five

On Monday, seasonal workers demonstrated against working conditions during the asparagus harvest. The insolvency administrator of their farm rejected the accusations.

Harvest workers from the Ritter asparagus farm in Bornheim protest against abuses Photo: Thomas Banneyer/dpa

About50 harvest workers* from the Ritter asparagus farm in Bornheim near Bonn protested again on Monday against living and working conditions. According to police, the demonstration was peaceful. However, private security forces of the farm had denied union representatives access to the housing barracks of the seasonal workers, a union spokesman said.

The predominantly Romanian workers had complained about serious hygiene deficiencies in the densely packed construction containers and sanitary facilities. In addition, they were given rotten food; they were denied hot water, according to the FAU trade union federation.

The barracks are located right next to a sewage treatment plant and a railroad line, and there is garbage and debris on the grounds. The farm is insolvent, but the insolvency administrator rejected the accusations. The Bonner General-Anzeiger had reported that around 240 harvest workers were housed in one room, sometimes in groups of four or five. The FAU had announced the protest march on Monday. The union spokesman accused the employer of withholding all or part of the workers’ wages.

They had been announced that they would have to leave the accommodations by Tuesday, he said. The spokesman said, "Despite Corona and insolvency, these people were brought here from Romania to harvest asparagus and strawberries. Now they are being cheated out of their wages and threatened with homelessness."

Precarious housing conditions in the public eye

Insolvency administrator Andreas Schulte-Beckhausen assured that every worker would receive his money. In addition, the company was cleaned on Friday after the complaints became known. Occupational health and safety, health and regulatory authorities had then inspected it and had no complaints. Because of missing demand the asparagus harvest had been terminated. However, he had offered the affected workers replacements during the strawberry harvest.

Union members supported the protest march. "Germany, you lousy piece of asparagus" or "Solidarity", were written on banners of the demonstrators. Precarious housing conditions in labor-intensive factories have been a particular focus of public attention since the Corona outbreak in a meat factory in Coesfeld.

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