Success in Leiden: fear of May 1st celebration results in unexpected leave for forced labour centre

No forced labour!
No forced labour!
In Leiden today some 25 people celebrated Labour Day on the square in front of the DZB (1) building. Similar to last year, there was music, food and drinks, and a few short speeches. There were only 7 forced labourers present though: the management had sent them all home, completely unexpectedly at 10:00 a.m. This is a small victory!

The original text in Dutch with pictures
(May 1st, 2013)

Translated into English by Jet

Doorbraak had publicly announced the celebration this year via the media and especially through the many contacts with the forced labourers themselves. The latter had told us even the week before that they had two days of leave on Monday and Tuesday, but that they had to return to work without pay again ‘as usual’ on Wednesday May 1st. This morning at 10:00 they were told however that ‘the supervisors’ (called ‘the guards’ by the forced labourers) had something else to do. All of the forced labourers were allowed to go home and those who wanted to stay would have to spend their time in the computer room. They noticed police in the building and on the roof as well. A small number of forced labourers decided to stay and wait outside, and a few others came back to the centre later on to join the action that had been organised during lunch hour, from 11:30 to 12:30. Five of the forced labourers who had decided to stay in the computer room were afraid to go outside. They were being intimidated by two of the guards who were watching them at the door.

Employees of the centre took pictures during the celebration. There were extra policemen in and around the building. The WSW-workers (2) who also work in the centre and have their break at noon were told by their supervisors that they had better not go outside to talk to those people there. They should go to the back the building to smoke their cigarettes. Doorbraak people then went around the building to find them and talk to them.

First day…

The forced labourers who were participating in the celebration today told us that they had discussed it a lot among themselves the week before. They had distributed the pamphlets among themselves, often behind the back of the guards. It seems the management is increasingly concerned about keeping control of the forced labourers and for the atmosphere in the centre, and has tried to keep its free labourers away from the celebration by giving them a day off. An entire day without forced labour in Leiden: we hope many more will follow! “Thanks for the day off”, one of the forced labourers shouted enthusiastically to the Doorbraak activists after the celebration ended.

At the start of the celebration deputy director Rob van Rijn turned up to inspect the square. He wanted to make sure ‘nothing silly’ was going to happen …. He also insisted we should not use photographs of the faces of his workfloor guards as targets for the now traditional ball-throwing game. “These are civil servants, who are implementing the decisions that have been made democratically”, according to Van Rijn. “They should be grateful that it is no more than a soft ball thrown at their pictures”, he was told. “This is nothing compared to the humiliations the forced labourers suffer from them every day.” Van Rijn controlled himself: “I do not have an opinion, I am a civil servant.” This led to the reply: “It is not inconceivable that at some point the guards together with you will disappear behind bars because of illegal enforcement of labour on people. What you are doing here is in fact organised trafficking of human beings.”

Many new contacts were made on the square today. There were speeches by Doorbraak and by a representative of the FNV Bondgenoten labour union. On May 14 Doorbraak is organising a meeting against forced labour. The May 1 celebration was used to invite forced labourers. Since this succeeded in part, the others will no doubt be given a pamphlet by one of their colleagues. These pamphlets will find their way inside, that is no problem at all. In order to be sure that everyone knows about it, Doorbraak will organise a reprise tomorrow of the celebration of today. On May 2nd Leiden will be again celebrating Labour Day, again with music, speeches and drinks and food. This means the management will have to choose: either give the forced labourers another day off, or let them talk with their fellow comrades.

So join us on May 2nd at the forced labour centre!

Eric Krebbers

Notes by the translator
1. DZB = Municipal organisation for social work
2. WSW = Regulation for statutory sheltered employment for unemployed