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A labor court in Belgium has opened an investigation into another 11 transport companies suspected of exploiting cheap labor force in Slovakia, through so-called letterbox companies. The last verdict of the court in Hasselt, thanks to which Bulgarian drivers won more than 200,000 euros in compensation, shows that Belgian authorities are making progress in the fight against social dumping in their own backyard.

This time, the case concerns Slovak drivers. There are no details yet, but it is already known that companies that are subject to the investigation, had branches set up in Slovakia. The Belgian Transport Federation (BFT) also accuses a member of the Council of the Association of Carriers and Logistics (FEBETRA) and the owner of the Peethultra company, Roland Peeters, for legal assistance in establishing letterboxes in Slovakia, calling him „the father of social dumping.”

No wonder Roland Peeters is the target now. In Belgium, this „brave man” heads the Peethultra company and sits on the board of directors of the FEBETRA employers’ federation. Together with Vincent Peetersem he manages in Slovakia two transport companies, Rovitrans and Virotrans, both located at the same address, in an office building in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. In addition, for many years he was a co-owner of a consultancy company called SK Service,” says Frank Moreels, head of the Belgian Transport Federation.

Setting up a letterbox company is easy

BFT claims that Roland Peeters offered assistance to Belgian carriers in setting up subsidiaries in Slovakia, which in practice was limited to hanging a mailbox at the address where the branch was registered. Such a company would employ drivers in Slovakia and pay them local wages but would de facto operate in Belgium. BFT reports that all of these branches were registered on the same street in Bratislava.

We visited the Slovak branch of several dozen Belgian carriers. We often only found a mailbox or sometimes a small office with a telephone and a laptop or one office occupied by several companies, but without a partition wall. Many of the companies listed on our blacklist have already been visited by the inspection services in Belgium. In recent days, the list has been extended again thanks to BFT,” adds Moreels.

Although Roland Peeters already sold his shares in the consultancy company SK Service, similar services are offered by other companies, also in Bulgaria. Frank Moreels gives an example of VEG Corporate Services, which offers legal and administrative assistance in opening a business in Bulgaria for only 550 euros. The company is registered in Cyprus, but until recently a Belgian contact number was provided on the website.

UBT hopes that the recent victory in the court in Hasselt will give thought to other carriers who want to employ workers from Eastern Europe and pay them much lower rates than those in force in the country in which they actually do their job.

We waited a long time, too long before everything began to move. Our persistence finally pays off. We must now get to other dishonest employers – he concludes Moreels.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Veronica538/CC BY-SA 3.0

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