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Union critical of workfare programmes

3 May 2007 - So-called ‘work first’ employment programmes are getting out of hand, said board member Leo Hartveld of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation FNV. The confederation has launched a web page on work first, containing a checklist to assess local work first practices.

Amsterdam goes along enthusiastically with the work first approach, which consists of making welfare recipients carry out work such as assembling curtain hooks, folding pizza boxes, wrapping chewing gum for the Hema, and sorting coat hangers. They receive no salary.

The FNV is not against programmes that offer job seekers work experience. “But then municipalities should really invest in job seekers. These people should for example be offered training courses”, said Hartveld. “And there should be jobs for people who have participated in the programme”.

In Amsterdam, a programme run by Fourstar was temporarily shut down because of fire safety problems and a programme run by Consolid intimidated a participant who had talked to a journalist.

The Amsterdam Accounting Office further concluded that companies that run work first programmes can get paid a premium up to three times for the same participant, by referring them to a subsidiary.

Outside Amsterdam, the work first approach is controversial as well. For example, a wildcat strike almost broke out among participants in a work first programme in Den Bosch. They had complaints about work conditions.

See also: Accounting Office report


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