The accession of new member states to the EU in 2004 and 2007 led to a large inflow of labour migrants from Central and Eastern Europe to Western Europe. In the recipient countries this aroused concerns about exploitation, downward pressure on employment conditions and displacement of established workers. Many Eastern Europeans in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are employed by a temporary work agency. In this article we investigate the self-regulation of this sector to prevent abuses with respect to the employment conditions of labour migrants and explain differences from the context of industrial relations. The research was carried out on the basis of analysis of relevant (policy) documents and interviews with stakeholders, including representatives of employers’ organizations, trade unions and the government. In the Netherlands, much more sectoral self-regulation takes place than in the UK. In the UK the role of the trade unions is considerably smaller. Moreover, in the Netherlands exploitation and displacement are perceived as a labour market problem, whereas they are considered to be a problem of criminality in the UK. This combination of factors makes the Dutch approach potentially more effective. However, this does not necessarily mean that this is true in practice, as in both countries the chance of being caught are perceived as small.
- temporary agency work
- labour migrants