Open borders: Employment Secretary's climbdown still not enough

26 April 2006

Open borders: Employment Secretary's climbdown still not enough

Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Employment Henk Van Hoof is to abandon his plans to complete the opening of borders on 1st May, a move which would have meant allowing in more people from central and eastern europe to be exploited as cheap labour. For the time being the work permit system will be maintained. SP Member of Parliament Jan de Wit, commenting on the climbdown, said: “The Secretary of State has had to make a major change of direction. The unconditional liberalisation of the labour market is off the agenda, and that is to be welcomed. But the measures which he is taking are not going to be effective and are certainly no guarantee of equal pay for equal work.”

The Christian Democrat Minister is waiting to hear the opinion of employers and workers' organisations, who are to give their advice as to whether work permits for any given trade or profession could be abolished.
Jan de WitJan de Wit is unimpressed by this approach: “It's no guarantee against exploitation of Polish and other workers. We need to introduce effective measures before we can fully open the borders: this was and remains the SP's approach to this problem. You have to get your house in order before you can open it to guests.”

The Secretary of State thinks that unfair competition, exploitation and displacement can be prevented by taking greater pains to ensure that the minimum wage is respected. The SP believes that this is completely insufficient, and that measures must be taken to ensure that not only the minimum wage, but collective labour agreements, which through negotiation fix pay and conditions in most branches of Dutch industry and commerce, are adhered to. Self-employed people must be protected from unfair competition and employees coming from must be given decent housing. Only when these measures are in place and effective should Parliament consider the further opening of borders.

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