Modus operandi: posted workers
A common tactic used by traffickers to exploit vulnerable workers by posting them to work in a different country or region, where they may face precarious employment conditions, inadequate pay, and lack of social protection.
Key features:
  • Workers are posted by companies from countries such as Estonia, Germany, Lithuania and Poland, although the workers come, in many cases, from another country of origin.
  • Explicit data of posting countries and nationalities of posted workers vary depending on the source.
  • In 2021, the labour inspectors in Finland encountered at least one worker without a suitable permit in one in every five jobsites where the permit check was on the agenda. For the construction sector this was even more common, in one in every three worksites.
  • Fraudulent schemes may be used to get flexible workforce and to underpay them based on the lower wage level of the sending country.
  • Such schemes also make it harder for the authorities to detect and intervene in the situation and may complicate the investigation process.

The gas station case example (2017-2018)
In this case a Bulgarian national established a company in Bulgaria, which recruited general workers for jobs at British Petroleum (BP) gas-stations located in Austria. The Bulgarian company signed a contract for delivery of maintenance services with an Austrian based franchise-owner operating BP gas stations in Austria. The contract concerned the provision of maintenance services for 2-3 gas stations. The Bulgarian company distributed advertisements in local media recruiting mainly marginalized Roma men for the jobs. The workers were sent to Austria and signed 6-month contracts. However, they stayed in Austria for no longer than 3 months, to avoid the need to register their residence. The contracts between the Austrian company and the Bulgarian company, as well as between the Bulgarian company and the workers were fully legitimate and compliant with the relevant Bulgarian and Austrian regulations. The Austrian company paid 2300 euros per month per worker directly to the Bulgarian company. The franchise owner had no knowledge of the labour exploitation that was taking place at his facilities. There were about 3-4 victims per gas-station, and they were paid not more than 50 euros per week. The manager of one of the gas stations helped the organizer to control the victims at the gas-station. He and another assistance manager used aggression and violence to control the victims and seized their personal ID documents. Both the manager and the assistant manager received additional bonuses in cash from the Bulgarian organizer.

Source: Shady business. Uncovering the business model of labour exploitation, HEUNI Report 92a, 2019