Monday 08 August 2022

Staffing agency shake-up ahead, end shared bedrooms, ministry says

The strawberry industry relies heavily on seasonal workers. Photo: Depositphotos.com

An end to shared bedrooms is among the measures the social affairs ministry says staffing agencies which specialise in seasonal workers should take to stop the spread of coronavirus, RTL reported on Monday.

Last month the social affairs ministry set up a task force to look at measures to ensure coronavirus does not spread among the mainly eastern European workers who come to the Netherlands on short contracts to work in farming, logistics and meat processing.

There have been several outbreaks of Covid-19 at meat processing plans and at fruit firms where most of the work is done by staffing agency workers.

Officials think the way in which seasonal workers live – often in cramped accommodation provided by the employment agency – may contribute to the spread of the virus, because social distancing is often impossible.

In addition, according to RTL, the ministry wants agencies to stop evicting workers who become sick from their housing, as currently can happen. This ‘amoral behaviour’ should be made public, the committee recommends.

Minibuses

The team also says that the practice of ferrying workers to factories in small minibuses should end because it is impossible to keep social distancing rules on board. Instead agencies should use coaches, where there is sufficient space.

Meat processing firm Vion has already switched to buses after coronavirus outbreaks at two of its factories.

Staffing agencies have already said the recommendations will add considerably to their costs. They want groups of workers who share the same house to be considered a formal household, and so be exempt from social distancing rules, RTL said.

Costs

Moba Aoulad Ben Arroun, who has built up his own staffing agency empire in the Horizon Groep, told the AD that some workers prefer to share rooms to keep the costs down.

‘These are not stupid people,’ he said. ‘Everyone thinks they are stupid and dependent, but they are shrewd. Some of them have been working here for years but they remain in my houses. They refuse to pay €800 for a rental house and would rather pay €334 for a room with me.’

The definitive rules will be published later this week.

Last week MPs voted in favour of a motion drawn up by the Christian Democrats and D66 which asks ministers to look into requiring all staffing agencies to meet tougher quality standards.

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