City of Brussels accused of recruitment discrimination

City of Brussels accused of recruitment discrimination

The City of Brussels is under scrutiny after reports in French-speaking media suggesting that street cleaners who work part-time while claiming unemployment in the municipality have been pressured to relocate in order to get a permanent contract.

Many street sweepers work on a part-time contract issued by a local employment agency which gives those who are long-term unemployed an opportunity to get some extra income without losing their benefits. The aim is to eventually help these people secure a full-time contract and leave the benefits system.

But it transpires that some street sweepers who work for the City of Brussels through an employment agency have been denied a permanent contract and have been told to "move to Brussels City first" if they want to be fully employed.

In response, Reformist Movement councillor David Weytsman has raised the issue with the city council. Faouzia Hariche, French-language councillor responsible for Human Resources, has denied that the City is exerting pressure to move: "All people on an employement agency trajectory can apply to the city of Brussels," her spokesperson said.

But Weytsman was unrelenting: "These people want to work but are forced into precarity."

Unfair conditions

Many street sweepers told reporters that they earn about €4.10 per hour, or €184.50 per month, plus €11 for transport. In order to get a a permanent contract, they have been told that they first have to move to Brussels City – a major (and often insurmountable) financial and practical hurdle.

"These people are good enough to keep doing their job for years, but they still don't have security," Weytsman lamented. "They see people coming in with less experience, who move to the City of Brussels, and get the job."

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Yet Hariche denies that there is any pressure to relocate to gain a full-time contract, asserting that contracts are awarded on merit, regardless of where an employee lives: "We only hire the best people. In our workforce, there are also a lot of people who live outside the City."

When asked by reporters why people continue to work on an employment agency contract for so long without gaining a permanent job, Hariche's cabinet refused to comment.

Spokesperson for Bernard Clerfayt, Brussels Minister of Local Government, confirmed that "it is forbidden to set quotas or base recruitment on the place of residence... If someone feels that they are not being hired because he or she does not live in the municipality that offers the job, he or she can file a complaint."

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