At the moment permanent employees earn more per hour than temporary workers, let alone people with a zero-hour contract. No wonder that flexible work, flex work, is very popular with employers and there are fewer and fewer permanent jobs. Time to address this.
Flex workers: cheap, also per hour
The mainstream political parties, such as VVD and D66, hail flexible work. At first glance, flex work is indeed one big good news show for employers. They can let people work when the order book is full and leave them when times are a bit slower. The state does pay, and the employees indirectly, through lower income. Studies also show that flex workers are paid less than permanent employees, although this is now the case with temporary work aligned in industries with a collective labor agreement. Flex workers do not need to be retrained either. In short: it is usually cheaper to have the same work done by flex workers than by permanent employees, even with 100% staffing. No wonder that employers are doing everything they can to increase the share of flex workers and further restrict their rights. Flex workers also have a depressing effect on the wages of permanent employees. Flex workers, especially low-skilled flex workers, can only dream of a permanent job.
Holiday and flex workers as pisses within a company
Bullying behavior within companies is increasing more and more. Holiday workers and flex workers are particularly targeted. The reason: permanent employees see these cheap workers as a threat. Their social position is also low, which makes them a grateful victim. There is also generational exploitation. It is mainly the elderly who have a permanent contract.
Permanent employees are difficult to fire. Because they work there for a longer period of time, they have an extensive social network and they know all the ins and outs of the company. Customer representatives can take many of their regular customers with them without too much effort, or warmly recommend the competitor, if a non-competition clause applies. This gives permanent employees a lot of power. An employer will therefore think three times before firing a permanent employee without good reason, or drastically worsening working conditions. A dismissal is therefore usually cunningly prepared, subtly maneuvering the dismissal candidate into a position where he can do little harm.
Perverse economic incentive
The weak position of power of flex workers means that they are being exploited. And at the same time, paradoxically, become more attractive for employers to hire. Let's face it, who do you prefer as an employee: a troublemaker who knows all the details of the collective labor agreement and is a master of the office guerilla, or an obedient work slave? The consequences of this dynamic are not difficult to guess. The number of flex workers is growing rapidly. There are only permanent employees for the really essential business processes.
The consequence is also that companies become dumber. For systemic innovation of complex products, such as machines, you need a well-coordinated team. You can't do that with flex workers who can be gone tomorrow.
How do we stop the flex work epidemic?
Entrepreneurs who can only compete by paying their employees less than their competitors are, in my opinion, no good for their profession. Flex-work enthusiasts often point out their competitive position with other countries. Remarkably, it is precisely domestic service providers, such as the hotel and catering industry and cleaning companies, that rely on low wages. A pointless one race to the bottom so, because if one entrepreneur cheats, the others must too.
Exporters usually pay good wages. That also makes sense. When competing with low-wage countries, wage cuts make little sense and exporters want to protect their valuable knowledge base. A good entrepreneur makes use of the unique strengths of the Netherlands and Flanders: the highly educated population with a high work ethic, the first-class infrastructure and good language skills. And set up a robot for the stupid work, so that its smart employees can devote themselves to the craftsmanship. So let's stop this so-called cleverness, for example by making a 30% higher wage compulsory for flexible work and harshly punishing messing around with employment conditions. We all benefit from that.