Complaints about holiday jobs

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A special "holiday jobs line" set up by the young workers' secretariat of the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions receives complaints every day about violations of the recently amended law protecting young workers. In 1997, the Labour Inspectorate is conducting an extensive nation-wide campaign concerning holiday jobs.

Every year in the Netherlands, approximately 500,000 young people work during the holidays, primarily in catering, recreation, agriculture and factories. Dutch law allows this under certain conditions. During the holidays, 13- and 14-year-olds are allowed to perform light, non-industrial (auxiliary) tasks. However, since July 1996, the health and safety regulations for workers under 18 years of age have been changed. For example, young people are not allowed to work with certain hazardous materials or in situations where the noise level exceeds 90 decibels. The restrictions for 16- or 17-year-old workers are now less stringent than those for younger workers. On the basis of the amended regulations, these "older young workers" are allowed to perform certain tasks provided that they are supervised by an experienced employee aged at least 18. Furthermore, young workers are not allowed to work between 19.00 and 07.00.

A "holiday jobs line" at the young workers' secretariat of the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions (FNV-Jongerensecretariaat) receives complaints daily from young workers and their parents. These complaints concern mainly the long working hours (sometimes more than 10 hours a day) in the recreation and catering industry. Complaints have also been made regarding child labour (involving children as young as eight and even six years of age) in the bulb-growing sector. According to the employers' organisations in this sector, these problems have been exaggerated as part of a publicity campaign by the Voedingsbond FNV (the food workers' union affiliated to the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions). Nevertheless, because of the various complaints received, the Labour Inspectorate has announced that action will be taken against employers in the bulb-growing sector if they employ children aged under 13. The parents will also receive a warning.

In the course of an extensive nationwide holiday work campaign, the Labour Inspectorate plans to visit 4,000 businesses in 1997. In 1996, approximately 300 companies were visited as part of a regional campaign in the south-western part of the Netherlands. It was then concluded that one in six employers did not observe the regulations to protect young workers. In view of the recent amendment to the health and safety regulations, a large number of offences are expected to be found this year as well. In the opinion of the FNV, the majority of employers are not ready to comply with the new "supervision rule". Moreover, the FNV also believes that the existing regulations regarding young workers in the Netherlands are not in accordance with EC Directive 94/33/EC of June 1994 on the protection of young people at work, particularly because Dutch law does not require the work to be an essential part of vocational training. A letter to this effect was sent to the European Commission in March 1997. The FNV also criticised the fact that 13- and 14-year-olds are allowed to work, but cannot claim the youth minimum wage, which only begins at the age of 15.

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