SP leader Emile Roemer: ‘Influx of workers from Eastern Europe must be regulated’

16 February 2011

SP leader Emile Roemer: ‘Influx of workers from Eastern Europe must be regulated’

The Netherlands must have the right to determine for itself which workers from which countries are allowed to take up employment in the country without a work permit. SP leader Emile Roemer presents a 5-point plan to limit the currently uncontrolled influx of workers from Eastern Europe, to oblige people working in the Netherlands to learn Dutch, and to put an end to fraudulent and abusive employment bureaux and inadequate housing for workers coming from abroad.

“I want to see everyone in Europe with a good job and good pay,” says Roemer. “But labour migration between unequal economies is not a sign of freedom, it’s the result of poverty. Workers from abroad often work here in wretched conditions for a wage which is much too low. In many cases these conditions are degrading. At the same time, this represents unfair competition with Dutch workers. No worker is better than any other worker, the only gain is to people who hire cheap labour in order to line their own pockets.”

In the view of the SP it’s absurd that busloads of Polish workers come to the Netherlands while Poland itself attracts labour migration from Ukraine. “A Europe with completely open borders is irresponsible while the economic differences within the continent remain so huge,” says Roemer. “The movement of low-paid workers across Europe leads on the one hand to the exploitation of these workers, and on the other to the deterioration of living conditions in working class neighbourhoods.”

The problems in such neighbourhoods, as well as in the workplace and in schools, are enormous. Over 70,000 Poles suffer exploitation from abusive employment bureaux. Language problems lead to dangerous situations in the workplace, while vulnerable neighbourhoods and schools come under pressure. “The government, under pressure from the right-wing populism of Wilders, talks tough, but does not deal with the real problems,” says Roemer. “Wilders thinks that the free market is essential to people’s wellbeing, so leaving the frontier absolutely open is fine by him.”

5-point plan for the regulation of labour migration from Eastern Europe.

1. A say in the influx of workers from East European countries
Work permits for East European countries should be reintroduced. For Romania and Bulgaria they should continue. The Netherlands must put forward proposals for treaty amendments. Before a work permit is granted to someone from outside the Netherlands, it must be established that nobody already unemployed within the Netherlands, whether citizen or legally resident migrant, can fill the vacancy, and that decent housing is guaranteed for the workers in question.

2. Decent housing
An employer seeking to provide housing for migrant workers must apply to the local authority for a permit. Local authorities state in a regulation the rules to which the housing must conform, including their distribution amongst and within neighbourhoods of large towns. Local authorities may forbid over-concentration of housing, as well as housing in, for example, areas intended for recreational purposes. Property inspectors will strictly enforce these rules. Exploitative landlords will be dealt with.

3. No more abusive employment bureaux
The introduction of obligatory permits will mean that employment bureaux can lose the right to operate in the event that they fail to obey the rules, driving serial exploiters from the market. To prevent workers suffering as a result of such a suspension, employment bureaux will be required to deposit a bond of € 75,000 in a blocked account so that in case of bankruptcy or closure the worker will receive his or her salary and premiums for social insurance and taxes can be deducted.

4. Safety in the workplace: language lessons for migrant workers
In order where necessary to oblige workers to learn the Dutch language, an amendment to the European Union treaty must be proposed. This is needed in order to ensure that Dutch and foreign workers can communicate in the workplace.

5. For some sectors knowledge of the Dutch language must be made obligatory
In order to avoid unsafe situations, in sectors such as health care, building and heavy industry a command of the Dutch language must be a precondition of the issuing of a work permit.

You are here