BERLIN (AFP) – Germany's government sought on Sunday to ease fears of a flood of cheap labour as Europe's biggest economy, with Austria, finally scrapped restrictions on workers from eight former communist EU countries.
"At least 100,000 people from eight Eastern European countries will come here every year," Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the mass circulation newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
But she promised a rise in checks on industries such as construction, gastronomy and health care to make sure that workers were being paid the minimum wage, where applicable, and that they were properly registered.
And she stressed that those arriving in Germany would not be a drain on Germany's welfare state.
"The vast majority will be young, educated and mobile workers," she said.
Germany and Austria, plus non-EU Switzerland, on Sunday opened their labour markets to citizens of Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which all joined the EU in 2004.
Germany and Austria were the last remaining holdouts in the EU, which now has 27 members, having imposed seven-year "transition periods" to restrict access.
Some sectors in Germany's booming economy have complained of a shortage of skilled workers and have been actively recruiting at trade fairs in Eastern Europe ahead of the May 1 dropping of restrictions.
SINGAPORE – A Singapore shipper says pirates have likely hijacked a palm oil tanker and its 25-member crew off the coast of Kenya.
Glory Ship Management Pte. Ltd. said in a statement Sunday that pirates are believed to have seized the Singapore-registered MT Gemini and its more than 28,000 tons of crude palm oil.
Glory said the ship was en route to Mombasa, Kenya, from Indonesia when it was believed to be hijacked and is now likely headed to Somalia.
The shipper said it is making every effort to secure the release of the crew, consisting of 13 Indonesians, five Chinese, four South Koreans and three Myanmar citizens.