Odd jobs’ agencies discriminate against foreign workers

Belgium's Employment Minister Monica De Coninck (Flemish socialist) has condemned discrimination among firms that supply cleaners, gardeners and odd jobs' people whose services are paid for using so called 'service cheques'.

The checks were invented in order to remove workers, often immigrants doing casual jobs, from the illegal economy. The service cheques are tax deductible for employers.

VRT Television’s Koppen programme investigated practices in the service cheque sector and discovered that several small businesses specialised in putting employers in touch with suitable workers violate racism legislation.

Often these firms ask potential employers whether they object to foreign workers. Some firms use forms giving employers the opportunity to exclude foreign workers. Earlier it became apparent that temping agencies had been responding to clients' requests not to send foreign workers, but in the service cheque sector employers are going one step further and anticipating such requests.

Jozef De Witte of Belgium's anti-racism centre: "Discrimination is offered on a silver platter. This is clearly in violation of anti-discrimination legislation."

The centre now wants an anti-discrimination clause to be added to government contracts with service cheque mediation companies.

Some 150,000 cleaners are employed in Belgium. A quarter holds foreign nationality.