The agricultural sector needs good examples to encourage the housing of labor migrants. Those examples are increasingly available and have been for some time. However, this sometimes requires looking beyond one's own municipal boundaries, says Dutch grower Geert-Jan van Tuyl in a talk show hosted Tuesday afternoon by the Employers' Line for Agriculture and Horticulture. He explained how he decided a few years ago to take the municipal council of his municipality on a bus to visit good examples of housing migrant workers in the yards of agricultural entrepreneurs.
Visiting North Brabant, the administrators saw that it can be done, entrepreneurs housing migrant workers themselves. Fears of exploitation, because living and working become intertwined and the entrepreneur provides both work and housing, could be allayed by the visit to the municipality. Meanwhile, Kwekerij van Tuyl in Zaltbommel has had its own housing for 40 labor migrants for about four years.
Previously, the growers with six acres of glass for growing strawberries and raspberries worked with employment agencies that arranged housing for employees, and the growers also rented housing themselves. In conversation with the growers in the neighborhood and after visiting positive examples, the municipality's "no" turned into a "yes. Since then, Geert-Jan says he has received mostly positive feedback, in part because the pressure on the housing market in the municipality has decreased.
Thomas Zwiers of the VNG and growers Geert-Jan van Tuyl
Additional legislation shows urgency
In the talk show, in addition to grower Geert-Jan, Eric Douma of LTO Nederland, Thomas Zwiers of the Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten (VNG) (Association of Dutch Municipalities) and Kees Pleijsier, process director for housing labor migrants for municipalities and regions, discussed the topic during the Day of Agricultural Housing.
The Roemer report, which contains recommendations for dealing better with labor migrants, was discussed, as were certifications for housing (SNF and AKF) and what is still to come in terms of policy. Clementine Vooren talked about this on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior, where she is head of the Housing Attention Groups Department.
The Good Landlord Act has been in effect since July 1, and there will also be a Strengthening Public Housing Control Act. With this, the national government aims to give municipalities motivation so that housing, including the housing of immigrant workers, is given even greater priority.
If "The Hague requires it," then that helps, or so the thinking goes, although it also helps if industry associations and entrepreneurs themselves prioritize the issue. With the first edition of the Day of Agricultural Housing, they are demonstrating this. "We are putting the subject in the spotlight," Eric said.
With several working visits to housing locations this year, they already did just that. Most recently on Monday at Drenthe Growers. The story of grower Stijn Kavelaar was also added in a video during the talk show. He is a fruit grower in North Brabant and was the first in his municipality, Moerdijk, to have housing on his own property. "You definitely earn back the investment in good housing," he states, although he emphasizes that it does not have to become a revenue model. Also important: showing what happens at his company. "It's not a secret."
When many companies were being established, for a long time attention was paid to the realization of parking spaces, but not to the housing of employees, often migrant workers. That is changing though, Kees sees. Agricultural entrepreneurs have solutions to the pressure on the housing market, for example, provided they are allowed to house on their own property.
Inge Bergsma-De Vries during the working visit as part of the Day of Agricultural Housing to Drenthe Growers.
They can also certify that housing. Currently with two labels. One question was how far along it is with a merger of both SNF and AKF. Eric explained how they are working hard to align the certifications.
One challenge is the seasonal labor component. Roemer attaches the term seasonal work to the period of 4 months, while in practice it is more often 7 months. For AKF it is a requirement that employees are in their own employment. Not so with SNF. For AKF, maintaining good employment practices is an important issue, says Eric, who is also president of AKF. Joining Geert-Jan at the talk show table was an entrepreneur who chose the AKF seal of approval.
That there are currently two certifications, by the way, is not a problem, according to Eric. A bigger problem as far as he is concerned is the large amount of housing locations without certification. Despite all the good examples, there is always room for improvement in quality. Customization is a frequently mentioned concept here, as was evident during the working visit to Drenthe Growers.
Grower Stijn Kavelaar showed in a video during the talk show how he has realized his own housing.
No migrant workers? Utopia
A final topic was the election results. Will labor migration come under pressure? All talk show participants agreed that labor migrants are very important for the Netherlands. Running without labor migrants is, in Eric's words, "a utopia. Although that does not take away from the fact that it is also good to look at robotization, among other things, Thomas believes. "There is not an infinite source of labor migrants." But the migrant workers who come, should be nurtured with good housing as well.