Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians who work in Dutch distribution centres, greenhouses or slaughterhouses; If it is up to Geert Wilders, this will no longer be possible soon. “Providing work permits for EU citizens” is the short sentence the Freedom Party devoted to the topic of labor migration in its election manifesto. Foreign employees, including those from EU countries, must first obtain permission from the government before they can work in the Netherlands.
But such a declaration is impossible to make in the current situation, stresses Paul Meinderhoud, professor of immigration law at Utrecht University. “Then you will have to leave the European Union,” he explains. “In recent years, there have been more parties, such as the Socialist Party and the Christian Union, that have looked at how to have more control over labor migration. But then it turns out that the free movement of workers within the EU is one of the fundamental freedoms.
Can something be achieved within Europe through consultation? Probably not, Minderhood says. “Few other European countries want to change this.”
Showers over greenhouses
Whether this is possible or not, a sector like greenhouse horticulture still feels like there is a cloud hanging over greenhouses. “The importance of international employees in the Dutch economy, including greenhouse gardening, should not be underestimated,” said Chairman Adrie Bohm-Leemstra of Glastoenbo Netherlands in response to the election results. “Labor migration is part of our healthy trading economy.”
Minderhood explains that this concern is conceivable. “What the new government could do is to focus less on sectors that rely on cheap labour. For example, by ensuring there are fewer distribution centers or subsidizing greenhouse gardening. The PVV program does not contain such measures at all. But the party The National Security Council, Peter Omtsigt’s party, which in any case wants to talk about a coalition with the Party for Freedom, is following this line.
The National Security Council also criticizes labor migration, but believes that the freedom of movement of workers is a reality. The party wants to become “more selective in the acquisition of new companies as the vacant positions will be filled mainly with new groups of migrant workers.” The party explicitly refers to “distribution boxes,” or large logistics centers.
Paying attention to living and working conditions
Some of the problems of migrant workers are also related to the poor conditions in which they live. They often rely heavily on recruitment agencies that provide work and housing – sometimes fraudulent. If they lose their jobs, they also lose their living space. This is partly due to the housing shortage, homes are often in poor condition and many people live in very small spaces.
Former SP leader Emile Romer already issued an important report on these issues in 2020. However, this only leads to incremental improvements. As far as the National Security Council is concerned, these things need to come quickly: the party is calling for stricter requirements, both in the areas of working conditions and housing. The Freedom Party does not address this in its programme. While better regulation may also curb the influx of foreign workers, Minderhoud stresses.
Suppose the Freedom Party manages to convince the Netherlands to leave the European Union, which means that freedom of movement of workers will no longer exist? “The question remains whether this will significantly reduce labor migration,” the professor continues. “In the UK you see that immigration actually increased after Brexit.” This is also due to the continued need for migrant workers. “One way or another: there is a huge labor shortage.”
Name, place of residence, nationality? Municipalities are often in the dark regarding migrant workers
Often, municipalities do not know where migrant workers live and for whom they work. This makes addressing violations difficult. Municipalities require employers to ensure correct registration.
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