Swiss cleaning firm dupes refugees into working for free

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Swiss cleaning firm dupes refugees into working for free
File photo: Bark/Flickr

A Swiss cleaning firm working for McDonald's is in trouble after promising refugees work permits if they worked for free for three months.


“At first I thought it was normal to work for free in Switzerland to get a residency permit. My friends at the refugee home also did it.”

These are the words of Yusuf, a young man from Sudan who worked cleaning McDonald's restaurants “non-stop” and “without breaks” for some 40 days with just four days off in late 2014 and early 2015.

Yusuf was not paid for any of this cleaning work because his employer – a subsidiary of Swiss firm Top Clean Reinigungen GmbH – had offered him a chance at obtaining a B permit, which allows people to live in Switzerland for up to five years.

The Sudanese man, who currently holds an F permit allowing him to stay in Switzerland on a provisional basis only, believed he would only be paid once that B permit had been organized.

It wasn’t until a fellow resident at the refugee home where he lived explained that if his boss had yet to provide him with a contract or pay him, he was unlikely to do ever do either.

The two men then reported the cleaning firm to Swiss union Unia which investigated the case and recently reported on it in its magazine Work.

When Yusuf went on to demand 6,868 Swiss francs in wages from the cleaning firm, his manager offered him 3,000 francs, but also demanded he retract his complaint. He refused.

Speaking about the case, the media spokesperson for McDonald's in Switzerland, Aglaë Strachwitz, said the restaurant chain had no direct connection with the cleaning company in question, and that such services were contracted out.

The Geneva McDonald's franchise group in question has now cancelled its contract with Top Clean after the firm failed to answer the companies questions “to our satisfaction”, Strachwitz added.

Lawyers for Top Clean have chosen not to speak publicly about the case.

“There’s no way I am going to fall for this again. I only hope I can find a paying job soon. There must still be decent bosses in Switzerland,” Yusuf told Work.  


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