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Waiter in the greenhouse? "Unfortunately it's not that simple"

At the one company, or the one greenhouse, working hands are becoming available, while at the other company there's too few, and extra people are more than welcome. The catering business has a lot of staff to spare since the lockdown, so an entrepreneur from The Hague offered his staff at cost price to growers. But it's not that easy, as a tomato and a bell pepper grower shared.

Cutting and binding
A waiter who, up until Sunday night, was handing out beers and serving food, now working in the greenhouse in the crucial process of cutting, binding, harvesting and packing; not so fast, say the growers. "Unfortunately it's not as simple as everyone thinks", says a bell pepper grower who mostly wants to 'work steadily with the staff we have now'. 

"That's our stance now, also because you don't know what new staff could bring in in terms of virus risks." Virus risks from a corona angle, but also plant viruses, because ToBRFV isn't gone yet either. 

The latter virus isn't a problem in cucumber, but there are still strict hygiene measures. "We don't let any visitors from outside in, and work in shifts so when someone's sick we don't have to send everyone home. But other than that everything continues", says Hartman

Virus pressure
A tomato grower points to the virus pressure, like his bell pepper growing colleague. The company works with a lot of scholars and labour migrants, but they all need at least a few days or weeks to get on board. "Just simply harvesting tomatoes, that's not on the table."

Distancing in packing room
Harvesting and crop work may be complicated, but what about packing? "That's not simple either", says the bell pepper grower. "There's strict food safety guidelines, and supplementary corona guidelines, forcing our staff to keep an extra distance from each other. We couldn't even fit more people in the packing hall now."

Ornamental staff best option if necessary
What about staff from the ornamental industry who are temporarily out of a job? That would be the best option if necessary, both growers agree. "Those people know their way around a greenhouse and could work on their own faster."

Tackling legal issues
In the mean time LTO Nederland, including Glastuinbouw Nederland, established a Labour Taskforce. The taskforce will consult daily and made a promise to get answers for entrepreneurs and companies. Contacts will also be made with other parties like UWV, SZW and employment agencies ABU and NBBU. 

The above example from the catering industry entrepreneur shows that entrepreneurs can find each other to help each other out. And yet, apart from the practical issues of employing each other's staff, there are legal issues as well. 

  • How should loaning employees be recorded between the employers?
  • How should this be supported in terms of contracts etcetera?
  • What salary should be followed? Are supplements legally possible?
  • What about liability for injuries or disease? 

The taskforce can be reached for questions. Peter Loef from Glastuinbouw Nederland is a member of the taskforce. Phone: +31(0)6 512 643 22; e-mail  

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