Translated from Dutch NOS TV:
NRC: religious denomination makes 12-year-olds work
The religious denomination Norwegian Brethren makes twelve-year-old children work to earn money for the church, NRC Handelsblad daily writes after investigation. The children, eg, had to fold more than a million boxes and envelopes for the Postcode Lottery.
The Working Hours Act prohibits such child labour. Young people of 16 and 17 years old were sometimes working until after midnight in branches of Hema department stores, where they were employed through employment agencies of the church. Media Markt has also done business with them, the newspaper writes.
The Inspectorate of Social Affairs and Employment will investigate this in response to the publication.
The Norwegian Brethren are a Christian community of faith and part of Brunstad Christian Church in Norway. The BCC was founded in 1900, the first Dutch divisions arose in the late 1950s. The Dutch community (Christian Church in the Netherlands) has about 2,000 members. Who want to live as disciples of Jesus: “That means a life devoted to Jesus in everyday practice, making us holy as He” their Internet site says.
NRC received 200,000 emails and hundreds of other documents of the faith community. These data, together about 50 gigabytes, beginning this year were seized by the FIOD. Because of the documents the newspaper was able to reconstruct the method of the Norwegian Brethren.
The denomination six years ago was discredited when it became known that through its own “temp agency” hundreds of volunteers worked who owed no income tax or social insurance contributions. The Tax Administration and the Labour Inspectorate saw that as unfair competition. Clients such as Hema and Gamma pulled out, but the Norwegian Brethren founded two new companies: Projectservice and Personeelsservice. For potential customers it was invisible that they were attached to the church.
“No business done”
The Postcode Lottery tells the NRC that they did not know that the Norwegian Brethren were hiding behind Projectservice. Since last year, according to the Postcode Lottery, no business has been done with the company.
Hema is doing an internal investigation and has suspended contacts with the companies of the Brethren. A son of leader Jan-Hein Staal of the Norwegian Brethren in the Netherlands is employed by Hema as a manager. Media Markt claimed to the NRC that labour laws in their affiliates are not violated, and will take no action for now.
The work is said to make the Norwegian Brethren annually 2.5 million euros. The work pressure is high; some young people are said to have to work up to 18 hours a day.
NRC also cites internal documents that would prove that both companies are controlled by the church. “Of course our people know well what is the purpose of this whole set-up and that’s not to have as many people as possible into paid work, but to help the church,” as can be read.
The leader of the Norwegian Brethren in the Netherlands, Jan-Hein Staal, on Wednesday announced his resignation. According to NRC this follows after a series of questions about violation of labour laws and self-enrichment by people at the top of the church …
Earlier this year, a Norwegian brother was arrested by the FIOD because of suspicion of embezzling eight million euros of the organization.