Saturday 19 October 2019

Bring back licences to stamp out abuse, staffing agency boss says

Seasonal work like fruit picking is often done through agencies. Photo: Depositphotos.com

The head of one of the Netherlands biggest staffing agencies has called on the government to bring back licencing, saying that self-regulation has failed.

Exploitation and abuse have become the order of the day, Frank van Gool, chief executive of Otto Workforce, told the FD in an interview. ‘Since 1999, 10,000 companies have started up, most of which are at the bottom end of the market. Now, in 2019, we have to admit that self regulation has failed.’

There have been dozens of stories in the media recently about workers, particularly from eastern Europe, being underpaid and exploited by staffing agencies, many of which appear and disappear overnight.

The Netherlands, Van Gool points out, is the only EU country where people can start a staffing agency without a permit. There are, he says, 14,200 agencies on the official register, compared with just 1,700 in neighbouring Belgium.

Otto Workforce, 56% in the hands of Japanese listed firm Outsourcing Inc, is active in 15 countries and a European market leader for cross border staffing contracts – a sector where much of the abuse is concentrated.

‘And we are not even talking about the little companies that just appear and the large scale tax avoidance,’ Van Gool said. ‘We are talking about millions of euros.’

Last Friday the government said the way in which migrant workers are being exploited by some employers and staffing agencies in the Netherlands is unacceptable and damaging the country’s reputation.

The measures the government now plans to take include tougher checks on staffing agencies, better information in countries of origin about worker rights and better registration systems for migrant workers. Language lessons and housing projects are also an option, the ministers said.

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