Labour inspectorate must act against lack of concern for safety of Polish workers

11 January 2007

Labour inspectorate must act against lack of concern for safety of Polish workers

Polish workers in the Netherlands are being sent by employment bureaux to do jobs which the bureaux know full-well are dangerous, and to employers known not to comply with the legally-specified conditions for such work. This was shown earlier this week when a nationally-broadcast current affairs programme focused its attention on the safety of eastern European workers in the Netherlands. SP Member of Parliament and employment spokesman Jan de Wit has asked Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Employment Henk Van Hoof if he intends to have the labour inspectorate deal with this abuse. Inspectors should, Mr De Wit says, ensure that employment bureaux are careful only to send workers to firms which comply with the legal requirements relating to the conditions of workers performing the work on offer.

In the report by national current affairs programme 'Netwerk', a journalist contacted a number of different employment bureaux, claiming to represent a building firm looking for ten Polish workers willing to perform tasks at a great height without the correct safety equipment. It turned out that four out of a total of thirteen bureaux had no problem in going along with this and offering jobs to Polish workers which they knew would have to be done under conditions contravening health and safety law.

Jan de WitJan de Wit's response to this report was to put a number of questions to the Employment Secretary pointing out that these eastern European workers were being abused by bureaux which knowingly abetted the evasion of requirements under labour law, jumping at the chance to offer them illegal jobs.

"Money is being made on the backs of these workers, by both employers and the employment bureaux,” says Jan de Wit. “But if there's an accident, no-one will be around to pick up the pieces. The workers and their families will have to whistle for any kind of financial compensation. By putting work out to subcontractors, as is often the case, the main contractor keeps his hands clean. If a worker refuses to do unsafe work, dozens of others are queuing up to take his place."

Given the serious nature of the situation, De Wit wants to see the labour inspectorate exercising vigilance not only over the employers themselves, but over the employment bureaux. "An employment bureau should only send workers to firms where safety is guaranteed. If the working conditions at a firm or site aren't in order, but the bureaux are nevertheless sending people there, then the labour inspectorate must take action.”

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