Fair Jobs the fairest employment agency in the Netherlands?
Fair Jobs is an action research project on how the staffing industry works when it terms of mediating migrant workers. The project tests whether it is possible to do this fairly by putting the interests of temporary workers first.
To this end, Klaas Burger (artistic director of the Academy for Visual Arts) and Francien Winsemius (FairWork, foundation dedicated to migrant workers in the Netherlands) will set up and operate their own cooperative employment agency. All steps are recorded and published in words and images, providing insight into dilemmas and successes. The temporary workers are directly involved in the objectives of the temporary employment agency. We are inspired by Dutch initiatives such as Tony Chocolony and Fairphone.
In doing so, we follow the improvement plan for the temporary employment industry as drawn up by FairWork. The main points:
- Before departure, the temporary employment agency provides employment contracts in a language that the migrant understands with good descriptions of contract duration, type of contract, notice period, position, hours and salary, among other things. In addition, the employment agency provides clear and verifiable pay stubs;
- The migrant worker is informed about his rights (employment rights, lease contract, health insurance, etc., etc.) in a language the migrant understands;
- The contract period is at least six months and during that period there is a guarantee of 32 working hours per week for at least the minimum weekly wage;
- Decent housing, internet access, adequate privacy, the ability to lock one’s own room door and a safe for valuables are provided;
- The housing contract is separated from the employment contract. This allows the temporary worker to have independent housing, and not lose housing immediately upon dismissal;
- The employment agency oversees policies and practices to prevent sexual harassment, discrimination, arbitrariness/preference, and other undesirable behavior in the workplace;
- Migrant workers have a voice in participation bodies.
For years, the same names have been in the top five temp agencies about which FairWork receives many complaints. The foreign temporary workers are mostly from Eastern Europe and nowadays regularly from Spain. Often they have been lured here with false promises and are poorly informed. They think they are getting a long-term contract of 32 hours a week, but once here that contract turns out to be very flexible and they can be thrown out on the street any day. If they get sick, they are not entitled to benefits and can be fired immediately. Housing is often poor and linked to work – so if you lose your job, you no longer have shelter either. FairWork has been discussing this with government and business for years and manages to generate enough media attention for this. Unfortunately, this leads to very small improvements. Therefore, an action research is now being applied.
Action research has emerged within sociology as a form of participatory research that not only examines social systems, but also seeks a way to bring about social change. In short, it comes down to the fact that in this case we not only research but also want to participate – and thereby change things. Especially in a time of populism, distrust and retreating governments, action research offers the prospect of concrete change.