More reports about migrant workers: 'Cowboy companies circumvent the law'

The number of reports that the Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate (formerly the Labor Inspectorate) receives about violations of the Aliens Employment Act has increased considerably. Whereas 1182 reports were received in 2015, suspicions of violations were reported 1817 times in 2018.

A report means that it is suspected that an employer employs someone from outside the European Union without the required work permit. The inspectorate is concerned about the increase because often foreign employees are exploited or work in a sham construction.

The increase can be explained by the growing economy, the shortage of Dutch labor and the decline of legal labor migrants from Eastern Europe. More and more companies are looking for ways to attract people from outside the EU (so-called third-country nationals). There is a regulation for highly educated people for highly skilled migrants, but there is no such arrangement for skilled migrants. The reason for this is that there would be enough workers available within the EU.

Misuse lurking

A number of Eastern European countries do grant work permits to third-country nationals in sectors such as construction. Because of the free movement of people, services and goods, they can then be seconded to the Netherlands. For example, Poland issued hundreds of thousands of work permits, allowing many Ukrainians and a growing number of migrant workers from Asia to work in the EU.

It is often difficult for the inspection to find out whether these people work here via a legal route or whether it is a sham construction. Abuse is lurking. Inspector General Marc Kuipers: “A gray area is created between what is legally permitted and what is desirable. This undermines the fair working conditions of workers and leads to unfair competition.”

Vice-president Tuur Elzinga of trade union FNV also warns about such constructions. “We see Dutch companies deliberately opening letterbox companies in a country such as Poland or Romania. Through these countries, they not only avoid taxes and social contributions, but they also persuade third-country nationals from, for example, Ukraine, Belarus or even Malaysia or Vietnam to come to the Netherlands to come to work a little. Big money is made on the backs of people being exploited by these cowboy companies. “

There is no question of displacing Dutch people on the labor market in sectors such as construction. This can be seen in the large number of unfilled vacancies. Kuipers: “If we think we need those people: fine, but make sure it happens in a healthy and honest way.”

The rules on the labor market must be a lot simpler, Kuipers said in Nieuwsuur:

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