Marijnissen: ‘Open borders will make the Netherlands Europe’s social dumping ground’

31 March 2006

Marijnissen: ‘Open borders will make the Netherlands Europe’s social dumping ground’

In the SP's view the government's decision to remove all further restrictions on the entry of workers from the new EU member states is incomprehensible. Commenting on the decision, SP leader Jan Marijnissen described it as "irresponsible", adding that “failing to maintain any regulation will make us the social dumping ground of Europe. The measures which the cabinet is proposing in order to address the problems involved are utterly inadequate and will, I fear, result in a huge, uncontrolled influx."

Currently, when a work permit is applied for, the request is looked at in the light of whether Dutch unemployed people, or others already legally resident in the Netherlands, could be hired to do the job in question. The government intends to drop this requirement on May 1st. The CWI (the state employment service) will still be required to check that the wage is in accord with the going rate and that housing is available, but that's where its responsibility will stop. The most important regulation for the protection of workers in the Netherlands will be removed and what the SP fears is that the influx will then step up. The measures to be introduced on January 1st don't amount to much, quite apart from the question of whether there is actually enough time for them to pass through both houses of parliament before then. The minimum wage will be enforced through controls, but wages agreed collectively will not. (In the Netherlands, many sectors are covered by 'CAOs', officially-recognised collective work agreements covering wages and conditions for all workers in an industry or trade.) There will be no CAO authority to check on implementation and ensure that workers are paid in full, and that employers are required to hand over any shortfall to anyone who has not been so paid. Nor will there be measures to prevent unfair competition by keeping tabs on self-employed foreign workers.

The SP has conducted research and drawn up inventories which show that the influx of workers from the new member states is already leading to displacement in the labour market, unfair competition from self-employed individuals and the exploitation of cheap labour. Many Polish jobseekers are forced to put up with awful living and working conditions, earn under €3 per hour and are therefore so cheap to hire that Dutch jobseekers have no chance of competing with them. This is illegal, but even within the law, displacement is possible. The situation is particularly bad in the transport sector, where large numbers of Dutch lorry drivers have been replaced by Polish truckers, while many haulage contractors are suffering serious damage from unfair competition from firms from central and eastern European countries, as has been shown by a survey conducted recently by the SP amongst contractors in the region of The Hague. Building sector organisation 'Bouwend Nederland' ('Building the Netherlands') has described the situation facing its members as a 'national problem' and fears a wave of bankruptcy and redundancies.

Jan Marijnissen"We are also taking a huge risk with the future of our children," Jan Marijnissen added. “Let's just say for the sake of argument that the government's estimate of the size of the influx turns out to be wrong, and that it turns out greater than expected, as has been the case up to now. Where will the thousands of young people currently being trained in technical schools for the building trade, transport or manufacturing industry go? Where are they going to earn an honest crust if tens of thousands of workers from Poland, Latvia and Romania are permitted to take the same jobs for €10 an hour or less? Neither the Netherlands nor Europe as a whole is going to gain anything from such wage competition. People from central and eastern Europe are being used to force down wages here – that's the kernel of the matter, and we will do everything we can to resist this.”

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