I would like to specify that my text is not meant to be malicious or harmful to anyone. It is solely my perspective and is the most accurate description of the reality I experience.
I am not sure you are aware, however, some months ago, in Brussels, on the 6th of May, it was the great opening of a new museum called “House of European History”.
By chance, I and other 69 people have been hired as floor staff to this establishment. The newly opened museum comes at a time when is most needed and opens a debate about European Identity, human rights, equality, tolerance, diversity etc etc, topics that are extremely hot in the current European context.
Is important to specify that the museum belongs to the European Parliament as much as the Parlamentarium, the Hemicycle, and Station Europe. However, the staff is not hired directly by the Parliament but outsourced to Manpower – the company that we all have signed a contract. There are two categories among us – the interims and the permanent contractors.
We started with enthusiasm and excitement – the project is interesting, informative, dynamic and it could be an ideal place to work right? Wrong.
From the first day, there were several issues that we have ignored blaming the rush of the new beginning, giving time to organically adjust/ adapt to schedule, rules and so on. To my disappointment, the issues not only that didn’t diminish but become bigger and slightly more wrong than acceptable. I dare say at the limit of legality or even illegal. I am not familiar with the Belgian law yet I am pretty sure is illegal to work, for example, 7 days in a row without a day break in between.
I would not give further examples of how wrong things are, at so many levels, I want only to add: a place that is supposed to promote tolerance and diversity, educate and instruct about the good and the bad of European history, colonialism, holocaust, communism, totalitarianism and all the harm that (some of) these ideologies have created along troubled times is treating a full hand of people with arrogance, contempt, and superiority ignoring our quest of understanding.
I think there is a great deal of understanding and tolerance towards the management or the project coordinators coming from the staff. The biggest issues are not the problems in itself but the complete denial and refusal to get an explanation to basic questions. Needles to say that a lot of the individuals working there are in need and a job, any job, even in these conditions is a matter of survival. Again, a part of the team is not European, which gives even a greater leverage to Manpower to abuse. Yes, the term “abuse” sounds harsh but next to what’s really happening I would say I am being nice. There are not only minor issues but related to payments, working hours, payslips, working conditions (the cold on the floors of the museum is not an exaggeration and being addressed with them on several occasions we have been advised to move more) etc etc.
I am not expecting anything to change since Manpower is ignoring even the Unions warnings and postponing agreed meetings every day.
The only thing that I want with this is to bring awareness. In any other environment /country/ private or public sector this situation would be absolutely not tolerated. Yet, here, in the front line of the EU and The European Parliament that is a promoter and of the human rights, values and equality, a handful of people are suffering discrimination and conditions that are not worthy to be called human.
There, I’ve said it.