Labor exploitation investigation prompts launch of 'fairer temp agency'

A quarter of Dutch companies exploit their staff. That is according to FairWork, which advocates for victims of exploitation and human trafficking after its own investigation. It presented these findings on October 18, the European Day Against Human Trafficking. In opinion surveys by this organization, 26% of Dutch employers admit to occasionally exploiting their workers.

Along with presenting these results, FairWork and the Academie Voor Beeldvorming launched 'the Netherlands' fairest temporary employment agency'. The new Fair Jobs cooperative puts the casual workers' interests first.

The investigation, done by DirectResearch in September 2022, shows that almost three-quarters of businesses that use job agencies (hirers) know the term labor exploitation (a form of human trafficking outside the sex industry). Nearly one in five hirers believes labor exploitation or human trafficking happens regularly to frequently in the Netherlands. This figure is similar to previous findings.

Using a randomized response method, FairWork determined that about 25% of Dutch companies are sometimes guilty of labor exploitation or human trafficking. That takes hirers' responsibility for their casual workers into account. This percentage is far lower than the previous finding (65% in 2020).

Flexible staff
About 65% of Dutch employers use casual labor, the study shows. The larger the organization, the more often they use flexible staff. Use and frequency have both increased significantly since 2020. Most flexible staff are from the Netherlands. In 2022, seven percent of companies said most casual laborers come from abroad (six percent in 2020).

Half the hirers permanently use temp workers. That share has increased somewhat, too (was 43%). When hiring, hirers pay particular attention to supply, price, and flexibility.

Fairer job agency
In daily practice, FairWork sees that EU citizens working as temporary staff in the Netherlands hold poor positions: flexible contracts, linked housing, lack of information, and even sexual harassment. "We've received many complaints about the same five temp agencies for years," says Francien Winsemius.

FairWork has had many discussions with authorities and business owners and is raising these problems via the media. That has led to minor improvements. "But we want big changes. If you keep doing the same thing, you get the same result. So, we're now changing tack."

FairWork and the Academie Voor Beeldvorming will jointly see how and if temp agencies can become fairer. Klaas Burger: "We'll do that in a flexible, open-minded, open, savvy manner. Fair Jobs is a public experiment to start a movement for fairer temporary work. The project will test what happens when you put temporary workers' interests first."

You can view the research here. 

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