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    Rutkowski Patrol, paramilitary group intervenes after drivers in Germany go on strike due to unpaid wages

    Armed members of Rutkowski Patrol, a paramilitary group, surrounded a service area in Graefenhausen, Germany, where nearly 60 truck drivers from Georgia and Uzbekistan had gathered to protest for not being paid their wages by Mazur Transport Company. The employer had attempted to intimidate the protesters but was unsuccessful in his endeavour.

    Around 60 lorry drivers employed by Polish transport company Mazur have gone on strike, according to reports from TAZ. They are allegedly categorized as “self-employed”, and sources have revealed to the portal that the drivers have gone without payment for weeks, despite having been promised a daily rate of €80.

    Drivers went on strike

    Since 20 March, the first of the drivers have parked their trucks in the service area (some with loads), refusing to drive any further. For more than two weeks, the group of strikers at Graefenhausen has been growing, and “attempts to negotiate with the company’s owner Lukasz Mazur have failed so far,” TAZ adds.

    On Friday morning, the conflict escalated. Mazur, who had only negotiated with the strikers in writing through his lawyer, reappeared at the Graefenhausen car park for the first time since 31 March – accompanied by people from the Rutkowski Patrol company. “This is the paramilitary combat unit of the Polish private detective agency Krzysztof Rutkowski,” TAZ describes.

    Mazur and those accompanying him drove up in an armoured vehicle. “Apparently, Mazur wanted to intimidate the striking workers and, under threat of force, persuade them to make the trucks available,” TAZ emphasises.

    An “action” of the paramilitary group

    The owner of the company also brought spare keys for all the trucks. Replacement drivers arrived in four minibuses, but they probably did not know for what purpose they were brought and “did not want to play the role of ‘rank-breakers'”, reported Anna Weirich of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), who was an eyewitness to the events. As she stressed, she and her colleagues from the Dutch trade union FNV support the striking drivers.

    According to Weirich, one of the drivers was slightly injured in the head when “Mazur and the militia troops tried to get into one of the parked trucks”. The German police then intervened, detaining Rutkowski and Mazur’s men “to the applause of the strikers”.

    According to police information, complaints have been received against the nineteen people detained on suspicion of serious public order violations, use of threats and coercive measures, and attempted bodily harm. As TAZ points out, Mazur declined to comment on Friday’s events.

    On Saturday, police reported that the detainees had already been released. “The drivers of the Mazur company have still not been paid,” Weirich stressed. For this reason, the drivers’ protest continues.

    An outcome of the case

    As DGB board member Stefan Koerzell explained in an interview with dpa, Mazur transports goods on behalf of German and Western European companies.

    “In the industry, it is often the case that customers from Western Europe hire transport companies from Eastern Europe, who offer and perform transport services for them at a lower cost. These companies in turn often employ non-EU drivers who earn much less than the minimum wage in Germany, for example. Such drivers – contrary to EU regulations – are often on the road for months at a time, never once sleeping outside the driver’s cab, just like many of the strikers in Graefenhausen,” – Koerzell stated.

    On Thursday, DGB sent a letter outlining the situation of the protesting drivers to Mazur’s customers, including DHL, LKW Walter, C.H. Robinson and Sennder. A spokeswoman for Sennder assured that “the allegations have been taken very seriously” and that cooperation with Mazur has been “terminated with immediate effect”. The other companies have not yet commented on the case.

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