European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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20 November 2018

Nail salons closed down in Brussels

Following controls of 19 nail salons in a shopping arcade in the centre of Brussels by various inspectorates on 15 November 2018, ten of them were closed for undeclared work or for employing foreign workers without a valid residence permit. Of the 68 workers controlled, 18 were undeclared and 12 had no residence permit. Two cases have been filed for human trafficking involving two 17-year-olds exploited by their employer, the Brussels public prosecutor’s office stated on Friday.

Several hundred pots of nail varnish and nail gel were also seized by the Public Health Department on account of their alleged danger to health. For its part, the Brussels Environmental Agency analysed the ambient air in these nail salons, as, when used in too high concentrations, the solvents employed pose risks to the respiratory tracts of staff working there.

For ETUI researcher Laurent Vogel, “the controls in Brussels reflect the ambiguities of state policy, with immigration control taking precedence over workers’ lives and health. The consequences of suppressing illegal immigration are much more serious for the exploited workers than for their bosses. The latter can expect to get away with a fine, while the former will be expelled from the country. The workers without papers in the nail salons controlled have been arrested and sent to closed detention centres for migrants. All this goes to increase the precariousness of the women working in the sector and reduces their opportunities to organise and fight for better working conditions. As for the cosmetics companies marketing such dangerous products, they get away scot-free.”

In Europe, as elsewhere in the world, low-cost nail salons have sprung up everywhere over the last few years, more often than not employing women from abroad. The European regulations on marketing cosmetics authorise many dangerous products, for the simple reason that they target the health of consumers and not that of professional users who are generally subject to multiple exposures in high concentrations.


Sources: RTBF, “Le Soir”

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