Human trafficking: Borealis knew about worker exploitation since May

Human trafficking: Borealis knew about worker exploitation since May
Borealis construction site. Credit: Belga

This week, 55 exploited men of Filipino and Bengali origin were discovered to have worked on the chemical company Borealis' sites in Antwerp, earning just €650 a month while working six days a week. It has now emerged that Borealis had been well-aware of the abuse since May.

Local media reported on communications from the company on Wednesday about the case of the 55 trafficked workers discovered working there.

Former labour auditor and former judge Ebe Verhaegen identified irregularities when processing the files of a Ukrainian worker and about 50 colleagues. Verhaegen filed a complaint with the social inspectorate in May.

He then informed a Borealis HR department manager of the social irregularities on the construction site, who promised him in May that they would investigate the matter.

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Local media revealed that Borealis questioned what impact there would be on the construction site if there were consequences from the investigation by the social inspectorate.

Verhaegen further noted that it was strange that the subcontractor involved (Irem-General Contractor SRL) used two agreements with the workers: One official and one not shown to the Department of Work and Social Economy.

The Flemish Minister of Economy Jo Brouns responded to the alleged abuse, saying "if it is determined that employees were hired under a false contract, it means that permissions to work were issued under false pretenses."

"As a minister, I think it is extremely important to await the results of the investigation, but I will not hesitate to review all 314 permits to work together with my administration if infringements are found.'"

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