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Pumping units

Stiffed a few quid

Pay people to
not work

Por arte

Factoring exploitation

Exploiting Romanians and Bulgarians — easy in Ireland 2008....

I had a job in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, arguably the most liberal city in the most liberal country in the world. I was working at a bakery there, in 2003 - '04. It was an organic bakery, serving a clientele that was, yes, more leftist than average. I was working "black" — off the books.

The owner was not bad to me, and did not actively abuse me — he was good to me, and gave me opportunity. But exploitation can happen easily, and without intent. The tendency is natural when the mechanism is in place.

On several occasions, I found myself — in a job where one would expect equality and dignity — treated as a second-class employee.

One day, A_ was talking to myself and another baker about the allotment of hours. He suggested to me that I would probably take whatever I could get — in other words, that I wasn't in position to ask for anything more.

I was attempting to get a work permit from the Dutch government, under the sponsorship of the bakery owner. We were busy for a few months filing papers and following up on contacts, pursuing the matter through the arcane and inscrutable bureaucracy of that government.

Skeptical at first, I came to believe that it was going to happen, that I was going to be allowed to work, and thus to stay legally in Holland.

The sentiments of A_ followed a reverse arc: he was if anything naively optimistic when we began the process, and as I was beginning to see the promise of the foot that we had in the door, he had started to believe that it wouldn't work. Then one day — as if on a whim, but likely after practical consideration (and maybe female influence) — he told me that he had decided not to pursue the matter any further.

And he cut my hours.