‘Van Hoof tricked Parliament in discussion over open borders’

13 June 2006

‘Van Hoof tricked Parliament in discussion over open borders’

During debates over open borders for workers from new EU member states, Secretary of State for Social Affairs Henk van Hoof responded to pressure from the Christian Democrats (CDA), Labour Party (PvdA), the Green Left and the SP by promising that he would take great care to work out, in consultation with trade unions and employers, what would be the implications for employment. In fact, after no more than a single informal discussion, Van Hoof has decided to go ahead with immediate measures to make the borders more open. “I propose that when Mr Van Hoof next appears before Parliament he should wear a long nose," said SP Member of Parliament Jan de Wit. “I have, just like the unions, the feeling that I've been had."

The parliamentary group of governing coalition party the CDA was amongst those arguing for a step-by-step, sector-by-sector, controlled opening of the borders, in consultation with trade unions and other other organisations. Yet Van Hoof has, after a single informal discussion with representatives of the agricultural sector, fish processing firms, light engineering and a few other sectors, decided to make it easier to get a work permit. From 1st June, employers will no longer be obliged to seek unemployed workers already established in the country before taking on people newly arrived from a new member state. “Of careful consultation with trade unions and employers was there none,” said Jan de Wit. “It seems that he promised something to Parliament with his fingers crossed behind his back.”

Jan de Wit“Van Hoof has put in jeopardy the employment prospects of many thousands of job seekers and the future of young people who will be affected by cheap labour from the east. Completely irresponsibly, he is ignoring the fact that employment bureaus serving Moroccan and Turkish communities are likely to go bankrupt because the market gardens where they have traditionally been able to place their clients prefer to employ cheaper labour from Poland. Employers in light engineering are finding that cheap Polish workers are falling into their laps and see no need to train any more young people. In meat production firms to which work has been contracted out – and which employ trained workers – are going bust because butchers are employing Poles on low rates.”

De Wit will tomorrow present a motion during the parliamentary debate demanding that the hurried and careless way in which van Van Hoof has proceeded be halted. “I am counting on the support of all the parties who originally called for a cautious approach,” he said, “including the CDA.”

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