ABU staffing agencies to break link between jobs and housing

Cheap tomatoes require cheap workers. Photo: Depositphotos.com
Cheap tomatoes require cheap workers. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Staffing agencies belonging to the ABU agency association will stop linking employment contracts and housing for seasonal workers from April 1 – in a first step towards giving foreign employees more rights.

The move, which will affect 520 of the estimated 14,000 staffing agencies operating in the Netherlands, was one of the 50 recommendations made by a government commission in 2020 to improve the position of seasonal and temporary workers from abroad.

Trade union federation FNV and foreign worker rights organisations have also called for an end to the current system, whereby workers who find themselves out of a job often have to leave their home as well.

The ABU agreement will give people a month to find a new place to live if they lose their job or their contract ends. It will also provide fall-back housing for those who find themselves homeless.

However, the ABU agreement is not binding on the sector in general and most problems are concentrated at staffing agencies which are not members of the association, experts say.

Last May, social affairs ministry chief inspector Rits de Boer said people moving to the Netherlands to do low-skilled work are living in ‘increasingly miserable conditions’ and that Dutch firms are opting to use cheap foreign workers rather than innovate or improve working conditions.

Since then, the government has agreed to set up a certification system for staffing agencies from 2025 but this does not go as far as the commission wanted. It called for the return of formal licences.

Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, mainly from eastern Europe, currently work in Dutch greenhouses, abattoirs and logistics on temporary contracts.

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