From Friday (9:00 a.m.) a group of Georgian harvest workers will be arguing with a fruit grower in front of the labor court in Ravensburg over the question of whether he illegally failed to pay them part of their wages.

According to a court spokesman, 18 workers who came to the fruit farm in the Lake Constance region in May 2021 complained. The extent to which the employees showed up for work in the morning and whether they were deployed eight hours a day as agreed is essentially a matter of dispute.

The core question is whether the harvest workers are entitled to the minimum wage if the employer does not use them due to the bad weather, as the IG BAU union and the Catholic pastoral care said. The Ravensburg pastor Werner Langenbacher said that this can be a fundamental question for agriculture. A court order is therefore expected to have a signal effect.

A court spokesman said court proceedings for such disputes in agriculture were “atypical”. The chairman of the Stuttgart district association of IG BAU, Andreas Harnack, said that it often happens that farmers try to circumvent labor law regulations for seasonal workers. Many harvest helpers from abroad shied away from the expense of the process in Germany and the costs of the defeat.

The harvest workers who are suing the court were part of a group of 24 workers from Georgia who came to Germany under a new agreement. Shortly after their arrival, the harvest workers complained about unbearable conditions on the farm in the Lake Constance region.

The district office of the Lake Constance district confirmed after an inspection that, among other things, the toilets were broken and not separated by gender. Some of the furniture in the kitchen was so worn that its surfaces could no longer be hygienically cleaned. When asked, the owner said that the problems were fixed immediately: “We are interested in people being well accommodated with us.”

The harvest workers were taken to a farm in Lower Saxony, where they could continue to work, according to company pastor Langenbacher. There are many companies that do this cleanly and transparently, but there are also black sheep. Against the background of the increase in the minimum wage to twelve euros planned for October, it is important that it is also paid to harvest workers.