To curb illegal employment and wage dumping, customs should get more staff and competences. The cabinet in berlin passed a corresponding bill by federal finance minister olaf scholz (SPD).
"We have found that there are quite of exploitative conditions," says scholz. He reports of construction sites where workers earn their wages "under very hard conditions", which are anyway much lower than actually prescribed. At the end of the day, they had to spend the night "under very unbearable conditions (…), in some mattress camps that do not comply with any of the regulations that we have in germany".
The responsible "financial control of illegal employment" at customs is now to get 3500 new jobs, in addition to an already planned increase from today’s 7500 employees to more than 10.000 in 2026. According to scholz, the increase is expected to cost 460 million euros annually from 2030 onward.
Customs already checks whether employers register their employees for social security, pay the necessary taxes and comply with the prescribed working conditions. But so far, housing is not part of the minimum working conditions – that is to change. Customs should be able to investigate suspected labor exploitation, forced labor and human trafficking.
The unions essentially buried the plans, which still have to be approved by the bundestag and the federal states. "Traps of wage dumping can be found on almost every rough construction site in germany," the federal chairman of IG bau, robert feiger, told the deutsche presse agency. It is good that scholz is sending out a signal here. However, more had been possible, for example in the implementation of EU rules on the treatment of workers from other european countries. "We would therefore like to see a much bolder implementation."The police union (gdp) complained that customs was not linked to the police’s IT systems. In addition, there is a lack of coherent legislation for customs’ fight against crime.
Customs should also take a closer look at day laborers or "labor lines" where people are hired out for the day. Until now, he has only been able to intervene when he catches day laborers in illegal employment. In the future, officials will be able to intervene at the very beginning at the side of the road.
Customs should also take a closer look at the "construction mafia. Some employers are trying to use subcontractors to disguise who employs staff and thus avoid taxes and social security contributions, the ministry explains. Sometimes services were billed that were never performed. In the future, customs should be able to monitor the communications of suspects and conduct simple criminal proceedings itself. The creation of sham invoices is to become a regulatory offense and the prosecution of illegal employment possible even if the specific place of work is unknown.
Organized child benefit fraudsters must also be prepared for customs controls. EU expatriates used partly fictitious employment contracts and backdated rental contracts to obtain child benefits. Some people report only low earnings in order to collect hartz IV benefits. According to the ministry, the job centers alone recorded losses of 50 million euros in 2017 due to gang-related social fraud.
In the future, EU expatriates will only receive child benefits for the first three months if they can prove that they have income in germany. Job centers, immigration authorities and family benefits offices to work more closely together. In case of doubt, the family insurance funds should be able to stop payments in advance.
DGB executive board member annelie buntenbach welcomed the plan in principle, but is skeptical about the rules on child benefits. "People who live here in germany and have children must also receive child benefits," she told the saarbrucker newspaper. "A waiting period of three months is unreasonable and disadvantages children in particular."
The german lawyers’ association considers the regulation to be contrary to european law and fears that it will lead to "excessive investigation methods" and create an unjustifiable powerfulness for customs.
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