EFFAT welcomes the European Parliament’s adoption of a resolution on the rights of cross-border and migrant workers. The food, agriculture and tourism sectors are host to the vast majority of seasonal, cross-border and migrant workers in Europe.
In the context of coronavirus, EFFAT has been raising concern over recent months about the unacceptable situation of seasonal workers in agriculture, whose appalling working – and housing conditions – have put them at hugely increased health risk.
But as EFFAT and its affiliates have also made clear to lawmakers over many years, while COVID-19 has broadened awareness of these and related issues, they are much more longstanding – the result of widespread exploitation and social dumping, including the sort of abusive sub-contracting practices such as those recently publicised as occurring in slaughterhouses.
The European Parliament resolution builds specifically on the Joint Declaration signed by the social partners in Agriculture in May 2020, as well as earlier Joint Guidelines adopted with FoodDrinkEurope and Joint Statements made with HOTREC: it stresses that as part of any efforts to facilitate the free movement of cross-border workers, securing their health and safety – “during transport, in housing and in the workplace” – should remain of paramount importance.
In addition, MEPs have listened to EFFAT’s concerns and call on the Commission and Member States to “ensure quality housing for cross-border and seasonal workers, which should be decoupled from their remuneration”, as well as accelerate the proper functioning of the European Labour Authority “as a matter of priority.” They also demand enforcement of the principle of equal treatment – including for third-country seasonal workers with EU nationals – and respect for fundamental social rights, such as access to public services and trade union support.
Finally, EFFAT is pleased to note that the resolution “urges the Commission to make sure that the Farm to Fork Strategy and the upcoming revision of the common agricultural policy deliver for agricultural workers in Europe, including seasonal, migrant and other mobile workers.”
Commenting after the vote in the European Parliament, EFFAT General Secretary, Kristjan Bragason remarked:
“This is welcome step in the right direction. It sends an important message to the Commission and national lawmakers that the plight of cross-border and seasonal workers, especially in European agri-food, needs an urgent, tangible response.
“It is nevertheless a matter of huge regret that it has taken a situation as serious and lethal as the coronavirus pandemic to focus minds. The problems in European agriculture of low pay, unsafe working conditions, deplorable housing, and widespread exploitation, gangmaster practices and even modern slavery predate this crisis by many years. This resolution, while welcome, is frankly long overdue.”
To see some the key action points of this resolution become reality, and to help secure the rights of seasonal, cross-border and migrant workers, EFFAT calls for (among other measures):
- a legally binding European instrument to guarantee decent housing for all cross-border and migrant workers
- an ambitious European Directive on mandatory human rights due diligence and responsible business conduct, covering companies’ activities and their business relationships, including their entire supply and subcontracting chains
- the introduction of a European Social Security Number (ESSN) and Insurance Status Verifier as well as the prompt revision of Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems
- the designation of COVID-19 as an occupational disease.
Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit also announced a possible initiative on working conditions in the meat sector. EFFAT supports this ambition and looks forward to engaging with the Commission to help shape any forthcoming proposal.
EFFAT press contact: Steve Gilmore – [email protected]