'Scarcity will make labor too expensive'

Please call him the Man of Eastern Europe. John van der List (49) has been broadcasting since 2001 and knows everything about Poland and Romania. He puts them at work in the Dutch agricultural sector and industry. “I’ll get robots from China right away.”

John van der List (1967) Started in 2001 Exotic Green (Nu Good Morning) In service: fifty people Via GoodMorning: 2,000 Eastern Europeans working in the Netherlands. Headquarters: Etten-Leur. Offices in Steenbergen and Zwijndrecht. Annual turnover: 50,000,000 euros. It rains pipes like John van der List in his office in Etten-Leur takes place at a large table. He is small in shape and talks with an unexcited West Brabants accent. Van der List hardly speaks a word across the border. “I do not have language nodules,” he says smiling. “In addition to Dutch, I only speak a little English.”


This humble man, born of a farm slaughtered and raised in Etten-Leur, is now familiar with all corners of Poland and Romania. And also in Hungary he is kind at home. Van der List is a man of practice. There lies his strength. “I was tomato producer and then I bred roses. In 2001, trade was very good and there was a shortage of staff. In the Netherlands, people want to be free at the weekend and students are unreliable. You can grow it with Do not have roses, which goes through seven days a week, when I was in contact with Poland who searched for work, and in turn they took friends and relatives to the Netherlands, so it started. Other nearby gardeners saw that and Then also asked for assistance. “

Height and Low

At the height of the rose trade in New York, two planes flew into the Twin Towers and became something different. “After the attacks in America, trade slowed down. I continued the rose nursery for a couple of years, but stopped in 2004. From that moment on, I only had the employment agency (then called Exotic Green, now Good Morning.) There are now 2,000 people working on Good Morning in Brabant, Zeeland and Zuid-Holland, especially in horticulture and industry. “


Van der List has its field of work in the former East Block. Countries such as Poland, Hungary and Romania once stood in the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. Now they are Member States of the European Union. No bigger Europeans imaginable than Van der List. “I believe in the European Union, and yes, I regret the departure of the British, I do not understand them. I’m afraid of their nationalism. Europe must stay one in order to compete with the great powers in the world.” he says.


His love for Europe is easy to explain when looking at Van der List’s work. “I have started with German Poland, which are Polish people with German nationality, from the areas that were German before the war, which before Poland became a member of EU works in the Netherlands. In 2004, Poland became a member From the EU and from May 2007 all Poland could work freely in the Netherlands, but so close to that, just before the economic crisis broke out, I had to divert to Hungary to meet the high demand for labor. The office that I used to be in Debrecen Opened, I had to close again a few years later, so hard the crisis came, especially in the industry. I did not need the Hungarians because many Poland returned to the labor market. By the end of 2010, it began to improve and I have been recruiting Romanians with a Hungarian passport (Romania became a member of the EU in 2007 and residents have been allowed to work freely in Europe since 2014.) I repeated the trick with German Poland, now 45 percent of my temporary workers Romanian, 45 percent Polish and 10 percent Hungarian. Poland is becoming more prosperous and so many people stay at home or return home. The country has been doing ten years to get to this level, but Romania will only have five years left. It’s getting faster. I think, however, that the contrasts in Romania will grow. The gap between rich and poor is growing. That’s the difference with Poland. “


Van der List goes on to investigate each other in the countries where he recruits his temporary workers. Field research is it. He walks into the street and talks with people. The conversations are ongoing via an interpreter. “I like it most of my work, getting to know these countries and people. It’s actually a hobby. Last time, I was cut in Romania by a Ukrainian hairdresser with a Romanian passport, so I was on the way to a region in Ukraine with Romanian roots. Soon I will migrate that country to seek new jobs. “

Cultural differences

Europe can then be united to a large extent, cultural differences remain high. It gives Van der List practical problems. “The housing of labor is a major problem in the Netherlands, as a result, Romania and Poland can not be brought together in a house, they do not want it.” Poland is speaking a Slavic language, Romanian a Latin. Poland is Catholic, Roman Catholic orthodox. If you drive through Poland, it’s almost everywhere. In Romania it can be clean in one street and in the next a huge mess. “


Van der List has witnessed close attention to all major geopolitical developments within the EU since 2001. He is a product of himself because his wife is Polish. “It’s unbelievable how fast developments in Eastern Europe are going. In Poland, you’re looking very well. If Polish people go abroad to work, they choose before the Scandinavian countries or Germany, where the work gets better paid The minimum wage is higher than in the Netherlands, which is really a problem, so I am in favor of an increase in the minimum wage, so that the difference with the level of benefits will also increase immediately, which motivates people with a benefit to work. The difference is far too small. ” You would say that Van der List disadvantages himself with this vision, but he reacts soberly. “The aging process continues, and we are constantly experiencing obstacles, and we need a lot of new people for all the work, and we will not save it.” The scarcity will make labor expensive. “


He sees a future in Ukrainians with a Romanian nationality. They may, in part, be able to meet the increasing labor demand. The mentality will not lie. “Eastern European labor migrants work here for their home country, for a limited time they want to earn as much as possible, and they live in this period to work, not the other way around. They are so successful.” Van der List also sees an opposite development. “The progressive robotization has taken me a while, and it’s really hard, it can be a threat to the bottom of society, but it also offers opportunities. I think I’ll get robots from China instead of labor migrants from East -Europe As far as labor migrants are concerned, the borders can not keep moving. You need to get people out of their reach and can only benefit from them shortly. They are becoming too expensive, not to mention rising housing costs. In the big distribution centers. Why could not tomatoes be picked up by robots? “

Work pleasure

There will be a lot of work fun with any trading in robots. Every month Van der List is now flying to Romania. He has two recruitment offices: in Craiova and Suceava. In addition, he has a temporary employment agency in Poland. “I know a lot of those countries, but the other way round, that’s not the case. Last time I visited a delegation of Romanian mayors, they only knew the Netherlands of the weed, Amsterdam and the wallets.” This is true of many Eastern Europeans. The Netherlands from another side, not Amsterdam, so stupid that it’s so neat and organized. It’s fun of my work. The agency agency is just an office, but everything around is hectic and beautiful. Throughout all those people and cultures, you will only get to know Europe well. ” AUTEUR: GEERT NIJLAND | PHOTO MARCEL OTTERSPEER