Slaughterhouse workers should be given permanent jobs: unions


Trade unions FNV and CNV have called on caretaker social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees to press for fixed contracts for workers in slaughterhouses to improve working conditions and sideline predatory job agencies.

The Dutch meat industry employs about 12,000 people, of whom 90% are on temporary contracts even though the work is permanent, the unions said. Some 80% of slaughterhouse workers, most of whom work via job agencies, come from central and eastern Europe.

The unions point to Germany where tens of thousands of foreign workers in the meat industry were given fixed contracts after the state intervened.

The situation for many workers is dire, with many working longer hours than the law allows and without union representation.  Those who who complain are told the pack up and leave, the unions said.

That must change sooner rather than later, they told the minister.

‘What can happen in Germany, can happen here,’ FNV deputy chairwoman Kitty Jong said. ‘Conditions in the slaughterhouses must be improved and workers given more say. That can be sorted out in a couple of months, if the political will is there,’ Jong said.

The coronavirus crisis has put the spotlight on foreign workers even more, the unions said, highlighting how dependent workers are on the often shady job agencies for housing. Clusters of coronavirus infections have been rife among workers who had to share cramped and unhygienic quarters.

CNV chairman Piet Fortuin said there is no reason why workers should not be offered a fixed contract. ‘It’s not temporary work and at the end of a year people should be given a fixed contract. But now the market is given over to lots of jobs agencies, particularly in the east of the country, which are earning good money by squeezing seasonal workers.’

The unions have said it would consider a transition period of three years for the switch to proper jobs, but that politicians can make it happen faster.

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