De Europese vereniging voor uitzendbureaus “Eurociet” heeft me uitgenodigd om dinsdag 2 september een korte toespraak te houden voor hun leden. Uiteraard heb ik de uitnodiging aanvaard. Lees hier de toespraak die ik hield (in het Engels).
Ik zie twee grote uitdagingen voor Europa de komende jaren: meer werk, en eerlijk werk. De uitzendbranche kan een belangrijke rol spelen in het bemiddelen tussen werknemers en opdrachtgevers. Maar niet tegen elke prijs: in heel Europa is er nog veel te verbeteren op het gebied van de arbeidsomstandigheden. Uitzendbureaus hebben een belangrijke rol te spelen in het naleven van de rechten van werknemers en in het schoonhouden van de eigen branche door het aanpakken van malafide uitzendbureaus. Alleen zo kunnen we samen uitbuiting van werknemers tegengaan en oneerlijke concurrentie voorkomen.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Good evening.
To start off I would warmly like to thank the European Confederation of Private Employment Agencies for the invitation and the opportunity to be able to speak during this “Back to work” cocktail. It is my pleasure to be here with you today.
I recently became a Member of the EP, but some of you might already know me from the Dutch FNV or the ETUC, where I have been working on employment issues for over 25 years now. I have been asked to give a short outline about the challenges I see ahead for Europe in the coming years. I’m very happy to accept the invitation to speak on a subject which is very important to me and to my political party. “Getting back to work”. This will be our first and main challenge.
It is clear that jobs are high on the European political agenda. The recently appointed Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, has made a commitment to a 300 billion euro public-private investment programme for the upcoming 5 years. I have to say that we are pleased that the Commission President responded to the call of the social democrats to make growth and jobs an absolute priority in Europe. And from the EP we will make sure to steadily monitor the commitments made.
The investments to be made should above all aim to transform Europe into a knowledge based economy that is able to compete on a global scale, in order to secure jobs for the future. Such as investments in sustainable energy. This could create jobs in all segments of the labor market: from highly qualified engineers who devise innovative methods to generate energy, to workers that have the skills to install solar panels and windmills across Europe.
It would also offer massive potential for the private employment agencies: billion euro projects in need of a flexible workforce to swiftly get started.
Then, I come to the second challenge we will be facing: ensuring decent work with sound working conditions.
The time when employees would work for a single employer for 40 years has passed. We are facing a new reality. Labor market flexibility is a necessity, however, not at any cost.
It cannot be the case that employees are being laid off and that their permanent contracts are being exchanged for payroll contracts with a lower wage, poorer working conditions, while still doing the same work. Creating a situation which only benefits the employer and in which employees are being treated like disposable goods.
It should not come as a surprise to you that someone coming from the trade unions attaches great importance to working conditions. In Europe we have had to fight hard to acquire these rights, which are unique in the world, and we would not like to see them diminished.
In the Netherlands we have come a long way. Even though we are still trying to find the right approach in addressing rogue agencies, the main private employment agencies have worked hard to gain the trust of public authorities as well as trade unions by adhering to the rules and by respecting worker’s rights. Unfortunately this is not yet the case throughout Europe.
If private employment agencies want to gain a firm foothold in the heart of European labor markets and want to be taken seriously, short-term interests such as making quick profits and tolerating abuse of employees need to make way for a sustainable and much more responsible disposition.
In order to gain trust from European governments and become a true interlocutor on the European level, private employment agencies need to show responsibility: by making decent work for a decent wage with sound working conditions being the standard, by facilitating education opportunities for employees, and by cooperating with public authorities in order to tackle rogue agencies and to improve the transparency of private employment agencies.
It will surely not be an easy task, but it is the only way to take private employment agencies on board in transforming Europe into a more sustainable and social economy on the long term.
To conclude, I would again like to thank EUROCIETT for the invitation.
It shows great courage as well as commitment to invite a former trade unionist like me to speak here.
And that is why I am very much looking forward to exchanging views with you all.