‘No uncontrolled influx of workers from eastern Europe'

12 December 2008

‘No uncontrolled influx of workers from eastern Europe'

The Netherlands must be left to determine for itself the countries from which it is willing to accept migrant workers without a work permit. Employment Minister Piet Hein Donner must reach an agreement on this at EU level, says SP employment spokesman and Member of Parliament Paul Ulenbelt.

Paul Ulenbelt “As long as differences of income between member states remain so enormous," says Ulenbelt, "a European Union wholly without borders would be irresponsible. In countries such as the Netherlands there is an influx of cheap labour, which puts wages under pressure and makes it harder for people to find work. And in countries like Poland, whole areas are being depopulated. Hospitals are closing because of staff shortages."

Problems in the Dutch workplace, in neighbourhoods and in schools are extensive. More than 70,000 Polish workers are being exploited by fraudulent employment bureaux. Language difficulties are creating dangers in the workplace and vulnerable neighbourhoods and schools are under increased pressure. “The government should not be trying to mop the floor while the tap's running, using tough language and doing nothing at all," says Ulenbelt. For the moment the Netherlands, in part because of pressure from the SP, retains control of entries from Romania and Bulgaria. Ulenbelt has called on other parties to support both the maintaining of these controls and their re-imposition in the case of Poland.

From the 1st May, 2007, work permits were abolished for citizens of central and east European countries – Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The SP opposed this, pointing out that working conditions were already being illegally eroded. Until the country had its own house in order, the SP argued, it was not in a position to receive large groups of workers who would need no permit. In the debate during 2004 that preceded the lifting of restrictions, Henk van Hoof of the right-wing VVD, at the time Secretary of State for Employment , asserted that a maximum of 10,000 workers from central and eastern Europe would take advantage of their right to come and work in the Netherlands, yet in 2005 alone more than 50,000 did so. Once work permits were no longer required for Polish citizens, more than 100,000 arrived in a few months.

The SP wants to see work permits restored and, in the case of Romanian and Bulgarian workers who currently still require them, maintained. This would enable the Netherlands to control the influx of workers from abroad. This, says Ulenbelt, "is the best solution to exploitation, unfair competition and the undermining of the labour market."

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