Then and now: Exploitation of workers from Central and Eastern Europe

3 October 2011

Then and now: Exploitation of workers from Central and Eastern Europe

It’s April 2007. ‘Unrestricted access of workers from Central and Eastern European countries is leading to an explosion of abuses,’ says SP Member of Parliament Paul Ulenbelt. ‘This is because employers’ responsibility to provide decent housing for foreign workers and monitoring of such housing is not being properly regulated, while measures to guarantee equal pay for equal work are absent.’

Ulenbelt asked the government to first of all put the country’s own house in order before the borders were opened completely to Central and Eastern European workers. The only other party which supported the SP initiative was the PvdD, the Animals’ Party, which had two MPs.

September 2011. ‘The Netherlands is not in a position to offer decent jobs to the influx of migrant workers from Central and Eastern European countries.’ That was the conclusion of a parliamentary temporary committee which examined the problems raised. The committee said that it was shocked by the large number of bogus employment bureaux and the poor, sometimes abject housing conditions of the migrant workers. Migrants were being underpaid by their employers and slum landlords were making them pay far too much for housing which was inadequate in terms of size and quality. This, the committee said, was unacceptable.

The temporary committee made a large number of recommendations which the SP had proposed in the past, for example the establishment of a ‘CAO’ authority – the CAOs being the national collective agreements which govern the pay and conditions of most sectors of the labour market - with far-reaching powers to enforce the relevant CAO and ensure that the worker receives what he or she is entitled to; and the introduction of a compulsory licensing system for employment bureaux and the closure of bureaux on the second occasion that they fail to comply with the rules.

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