Temporary workers are being left out of corona rescue deals, unions warn

Photo: DutchNews.nl
Photo: DutchNews.nl

Hundreds of thousands of people on temporary employment contracts are losing their job because of the coronavirus crisis, despite government measures to help companies pay staff, according to trade union federation FNV.

Some 800,000 people – including 425,000 on call out or zero hour contracts, 227,000 in the first six months of their staffing agency job – are at risk, the FNV said.

On Monday the government launched its NOW scheme to help firms pay salaries while the crisis continues. Companies whose turnover has slumped to zero can claim 90% of their wage bill from the state. A 20% drop entitles the company to 10% support.

Some 35,000 companies approached the emergency fund on Monday, in line with government forecasts. And social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees has called on firms to apply for help to pay for their temporary staff as well.

Good example

However, initial figures indicate many firms are ditching their temps when the work dries up. ‘It is very sad to see how easily companies are letting workers go, even though they could get to support to help pay them,’ FNV spokesman Zakaria Boufangacha said.

KLM, VDL Nedcar, Qbuzz and staffing agencies such as Randstad, Olympia and Adecco are failing their temporary staff, according to the FNV. Others, like Transavia, DAF and Primark are setting a good example, the union said.

In addition, thousands of gig economy workers, including taxi drivers, are also being left with no source of income. Foreign students too risk losing access to grants and other benefits because they cannot meet the 56 hour a week work rule.

Some staffing agencies say it is the end employer – their client – who should be picking up the bill for the remaining part of the salary.

‘It is a triangle,’ Jurieen Koops, director of staffing agency association ABU, told the NRC. ‘You have to look at it together: what is the government contributing, what can the staffing agency pay and what is the client paying. They also have an interested in keeping the temp.’

Koops has called on the government to develop a safety net for staffing agency workers. ‘The government has organised everything for permanent staff and for freelancers, but flexible workers are being left out,’ he said.

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