Undercover work. The cleaning company was found guilty of aggravated human trafficking

It’s a new victory that activists against modern slavery are crediting. Nataliya Kruchenik, director of VIP services, a cleaning and concierge company, was sentenced on Thursday, September 15 for aggravated human trafficking to 18 months in prison, including 12 months suspended, 7800 euro fine under the employment of foreigners without title and prohibition of management definitively in the Judicial Court of Paris, said the lawyer for the civil party Maître Aline Chanu. The assistant of this Ukrainian businessman and his accounting secretary were also sentenced for human trafficking “in co-action” to 12 months in prison, 8 of which were suspended. Twenty-six undocumented Ukrainian cleaning women, joined by the CGT, accused them, as a former employer, of excessively exploiting them in unworthy conditions from 2018 to 2021

Most of them are not declared by social organizations, are paid less than half the hourly minimum wage and work up to 70 hours a week cleaning apartments rented through Airbnb. They were also subjected to heavy loads and very fast speeds, forced to take pictures at every stage of their work to meet Hostnfly’s requirements.

“We have to get justice”

“We are very happy that all the points we raised were accepted by the judges,” replied Oksana Veykogne, one of the complainants. “This is what we need to continue, that justice will be done”, he explained, although he and his companions in misfortune continue with “a little bitter taste that Nataliya Kruchenyk can continue his domiciliation activity illegally addresses”. The owner of VIP services is actually also the head of an association, L’Adresse, which provides this type of service for payment to many Ukrainian immigrants.

The parent company, Hostnfly, which charges Airbnb owners for cleaning services, was also fined 30,000 euros for failing in its duty of care. He also had to make this condemnation public in the columns of Le Monde and Le Figaro. Attempting to disassociate itself from its subcontractor, saying it was “deliberately deceived” by it, Hostnfly announced through the voice of its lawyer that it “[félicitait]that justice has been done for the victims of cleaning women who won their case against VIP services”.

Lack of duty of care for the client

“The magistrates insisted on the fact that Hostnfly had a privileged profit in their duty of care”, however Maître Chanu pointed out. “The judge believes that they are fully aware of the situation of these women,” he added. If the damages paid by the victims remain low – between 2,000 and 3,000 euros per employee for VIP services and between 400 and 600 euros for Hostnfly – the lawyer of the civil parties hopes to get additional compensation during an industrial tribunal procedure to be heard in June. Convicted parties have ten days to appeal.

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