Polish migrant workers in the Netherlands still face long working days, unpaid overtime, sexual intimidation and threats, despite a series of measures taken in 2011 to improve their situation, according to new research.
Because of their dependency on recruitment agencies, Polish migrant workers remain extremely vulnerable to exploitation the research by organisations FairWork and Somo says. Yet, the government, the organisation points out, relies on self-regulation of the recruitment sector.
The researchers interviewed over 100 Polish migrant workers all over the Netherlands on wages, discrimination, exploitation and sexual intimidation, health and lack of insurance, social isolation and work pressure.
‘The owner of the greenhouse where I was employed introduced a competition between workers,’ one worker is quoted as saying in the report. ‘He put a list with the names of all workers on the wall. They were ranked in phases according to their productivity. When someone was in the orange phase for a couple of days he would be fired.’
‘Every year hundreds of Polish working migrants contact us because they have problems at work, ranging from being underpaid and long working days to exploitation and unjust fines,’ said FairWork director Sandra Claassen.
‘Despite the fact that they have the same rights as Dutch employees, they are often abused. Their stories are the backbone of this report, and they show that a lot needs to be improved.’
Some 150,000 Polish nationals live in the Netherlands.
Recruitment agencies should be better controlled: self-regulation of the industry is failing and Polish workers pay the price,’ said Somo spokeswoman Esther de Haan. ‘Recruitment agencies and the government should take responsibility and make working conditions for Polish migrant workers in the Netherlands better.’
The two staffing agency associations in the Netherlands, ABU and NBBU, told the broadcaster NOS that self-regulation does work.
However, there are thousands of agencies which are not members of an association and stay under the radar. ‘That does not mean they are all bad but ABU would like government inspectors and the tax office to focus on companies which avoid all forms of monitoring and regulation,’ a spokesman said.
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