Germany: Modern-day slavery in Berlin

Working for free. Freelance for free. Intern for free. Modern Day slavery

As soon as I heard of this year’s theme of the blog action day, I instantly knew what I am going to write about: Modern-day slavery in Berlin. 

One would expect this to happen in a less-developed country and not right in the middle of one of the most beloved cities in the world. No one would expect modern-day slavery in Berlin, the capital city of Germany. The country with by far the most powerful economy in Europe.

According to The Universal Declaration of Human rights Article 4 No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. And according to Article 23 (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

We can’t offer you a salary (we simply want to increase our profit)

Companies employment practices are often hair raising. Interns displace regular employees and don’t work under the guidance of existing staff members, freelancers are asked to work for free, covered up with asking them for an example of their work. The internship experience is not for the benefit of the intern and it is not like training at all, and working for free ... do I really need to comment on that? Tertiary qualified people work in full-time positions, and often long hours; doing tasks of permanent staff but they do it without getting any pay would it not be for the odd couple of Euros for the commute to the office, or for some Re-Tweets on Twitter and mentions on Facebook. Jobs are disguised as an internship or work sample. The employers act in the knowledge that if they offer interns or freelancers a permanent position in the future they work willingly for free until that day. It is only that this day hardly ever comes. Interns as old as 30 years or older and grown-up freelancers have to live at their parents or in a flat-share and cannot stand on their own feet until they find a proper job and until they get paid for what they do.

Government, interns and employers work hand in hand?

People don't enjoy unjust conditions at work. People do not get paid equally; they do not get a just and favourable remuneration which ensures an existence worthy of human dignity. Why can’t profit-making businesses be forced to reimburse interns and freelancers for their work? And why does no one stop these businesses from taking on interns as a surrogate for professionals? Germany's labour force is protected by strong labour legislation, but it is not of any help in this instance. Interns and freelancers don't count as employees.

Modern-day slavery in Berlin 

Employers don't seem to reflect and ask themselves what they did wrong in the past and what led them to the situation they are in. In times of a crisis, they recklessly employ interns and freelancers (with no pay) to gain profit and make-up for homemade failure. Would they like to be misused like that? And I doubt they wish for their own kids to work under conditions like these.

Shouldn’t interns and all freelancers simply stop doing unpaid work at once and with that put an end to increasing the profits of the companies that exploit them? I asked around and too many feel that somehow the current job market leaves no room for manoeuvre. People are scared and fear that they will lose their opportunity and be given a poor reference by the employer.

What about you? Have you ever asked others to deliver unpaid work? Do you work for free? Have you ever been asked to do so? Every single person can make a difference and should stop modern-day slavery. Hasn't everyone who works the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity?

From Berlin with love