Spanish workers slam Dutch flex work excesses, brief MEPs

Complaints by Spanish workers who are say they are being exploited by Dutch employers have been brought to the attention of the European parliament ahead of this week’s debate about a new European Labour Authority which connects national labour inspectorates, the Financieele Dagblad reports. Complaints from Spanish workers, presented to the European parliament at the invitation of the ruling socialist party PSOE last week, include fewer working hours than initially promised, poor living and working conditions and contracts promising a fixed monthly wage that turn out to be zero hour contracts. ‘Young Spaniards are often given the completely wrong information,’ María Bruquetas of Spanish council for Spanish nationals in the Netherlands told the paper. ‘They are promised a minimum wage of €1,600 a month but they are not told that they will never get that on their zero hour contracts and that high fixed costs are also subtracted from what is already a poor wage.’ Bruquetas also said the fact that employment agencies can fire people at will is discriminatory against Spanish workers because they are much harder hit than Dutch workers. Some 478 complaints from Spanish workers were registered at the Spanish embassy in The Hague in 2018. One worker recruited by the agency to work at a bike factory told El País he was not given adequate safety shoes and when he injured his foot handling what he claimed was a heavy and inadequate piece of equipment, he did not receive medical attention for two days. Many of the complaints refer to circumstances which are not against the law but show the temporary work sector needs regulating, said FNV official Tuur Elzinga who has been combating the excesses of flex work for years. Elzinga said the complaints are the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and that workers from Poland and Bulgaria in the same position. Veto Whether or not the new labour authority will solve the problem is not certain, Elzinga said, because it will have a ‘limited mandate’ and member states can block a joint inspection. However, Manuel Velásquez of the Spanish labour inspectorate said the direct contacts between national labour liaison officials will help track down and combat clandestine employment, illegal detachment and insufficient safety measures. ‘Often we are dealing with letterbox companies which disappear suddenly or lie about their location. ELA will help us to finally access reliable information about workers and employers,’ he told the FD.  More >

Median incomes barely rise in 10 years

Workers' annual pay has hardly increased in 10 years when inflation is taken into account, the national statistics agency CBS said on Friday. In 2007 the median annual income of someone on a fixed contract was €34,100 but by 2017 that had risen by just over €1,000 to €35,200, the CBS said. At the same time, the median income of someone who is self-employed rose just €500 to €28,000, the CBS said. Men have a far higher median income than women - €42,300 compared to €27,100 - but this is largely due to women working part time. And there is little difference in male and female income up to the age of 25. Median income is not the same as average salary. It refers to the amount that divides the income distribution into two equal groups, half having income above that amount, and half having income below that amount.  More >

Freelancers more likely to earn low wages

An increasing number of the self-employed risk ending up living below the poverty line, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday. The CBS considers someone is at risk of living in poverty if they earn less than €1,040 after tax as a single person, or €1,960 for a family with two children. In 2013 some 250,000 working people were in such a position and that total had declined in the years up to 2017. But in 2017, the last year for which the CBS has figures, the number of freelancers with a very low income was rising again. In 2017, 1.6% of people with a permanent contract were on a very low income, down from 2.3% in 2013. The freelance poverty rate, which had fallen from 10.6% to 8.1%, rose again in 2017 to 8.6%, the CBS said. 'Freelance income is always a little more precarious than that of people in traditional jobs because the number of jobs they get fluctuates,' CBS chief economist Peter Hein van Mulligen told broadcaster NOS. 'However, freelancer usually benefit more from economic growth than people in regular jobs. That effect would now appear to be over.'  More >

One in 20 workers gets minimum wage

Around 6% of workers in the Netherlands are still paid according to minimum pay rates, the national statistics agency CBS said on Friday, ahead of celebrations to mark 50 years since the concept was introduced in the Netherlands. People working via staffing agencies and in the hospitality sector are most likely to earn minimum pay rates, the CBS said. In total, 23% of people from new EU member states such as Poland and 9% of people from outside the EU earn the minimum wage of €1,615.80 gross for a 40-hour week. The number of people earning minimum pay rates has remained around 6% since the turn of the century. 'This percentage should go down when the economy is performing better and there are more jobs,' Arend van Wijngaarden, chairman of the CNV trade union federation told the AD. 'We are calling on companies to pay more than minimum pay rates so that workers can benefit as well. The cost of living is continually going up.' On Saturday it was 50 years ago that the adult minimum wage of 611.70 guilders - around €278 - was first brought in.  More >

UWV fails to re-assess invalidity claims

The Dutch benefits payment agency UWV is failing to carry out repeat medical checks on tens of thousands of people currently claiming benefits because they are too ill to work, according to research by television current affairs show Nieuwsuur. Around 800,000 people are currently claiming some sort of invalidity benefit, according to the national statistics office CBS. In 2016, ministers pledged to ensure the backlog of 25,000 check-ups was dealt with but instead the total has risen to 30,000, Nieuwsuur said. This figure does not include a further 180,000 people with health problems which doctors expect to improve. 'We think they should all be checked but the ministry has decided otherwise,' Wim van Pelt, chairman of the insurance industry doctors association said. 'So these people are not included in the official statistics.' Current UWV policy means that only people who request a health check or whose employer asks for one are reassessed by a doctor. UWV figures do show that 10% of people who are given a new medical check-up lose their rights to invalidity benefit entirely. Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees told the programme that the current situation is worrying and that action needs to be taken. He has suggested allowing people who are not trained doctors carry out the medical assessments because a shortage of specialised doctors is one reason that the backlog has built up.  More >