SP calls for immediate introduction of licensing for employment agencies

23 September 2008

SP calls for immediate introduction of licensing for employment agencies

An investigation by an organisation dedicated to ensuring that temporary employment bureaux adhere to collective work agreements, which in the Netherlands lay down standards of working conditions and wage rates per trade and sector, has revealed widespread abuse of migrant workers. The investigation showed that more than 100,000 eastern European workers, employed as temporary labour, were subject to exploitation of various kinds by 5,000 fraudulent employment agencies. SP Member of Parliament Paul Ulenbelt, commenting on the findings, said: "The employment minister promised tough action against the exploitation of eastern European workers, but what we're seeing is the exact opposite. Instead of the number reducing, ever more eastern Europeans are becoming the victims of exploitation. I want the minister to establish immediately a licensing system for employment agencies which will allow us to maintain control and guarantee a certain quality."

The figures, from the Foundation for Employment Bureau Compliance with Collective Work Agreements (SNCU), demonstrate that the number of eastern European workers who are faced with fraudulent and exploitative practices by employment agencies has grown. In 2006 80,000 migrant workers were affected by such practices, but it is now estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 essentially fraudulent employment bureaux are operating in the Netherlands and that together these act for more than 115,000 individuals. 80,000 Poles and 15,000 Bulgarians and Romanians are paid the national minimum wage but not the rate agreed under the collective work agreement (CAO) for their trade and sector. They are cheated out of holiday entitlements, social security payments are not made and excessive charges are made for transport and housing. This housing, moreover, is overcrowded and of poor quality.

Paul Ulenbelt"According to the minister, things would improve when the restrictions on entry into the country were lifted completely, but the opposite has happened," says Ulenbelt. "Even though people are coming here legally to work, exploitation and unfair competition continue."

One striking finding was that more than 80% of employment bureaux which are registered with and recognised by the one of sector's professional organisations are unhappy about the way in which these abuses are being tackled, complaining that fines are too low and the chances of being caught too small.

"It's a gross scandal that in the Netherlands workers are being subject to exploitation on this scale," says Ulenbelt. "We must introduce a licensing system, and quickly. This would put an end to a situation in which anyone can set up an employment agency, it would guarantee quality and simplify monitoring. Any question of fraud would mean that the permit could be withdrawn and the offending bureau closed down."

You are here