On 15 May 2020, the social partners in agriculture EFFAT and GEOPA-COPA, representing the interests of workers and employers in the sector, signed a joint declaration providing clear action points for ensuring seasonal workers coming from EU Member States can experience decent working and employment conditions and access their workplace in full safety during the current pandemic.
Following the coronavirus outbreak and border restrictions put in place by Member States, the European Commission on 30 March 2020 issued guidelines concerning the exercise of free movement of workers in order to respond to labour shortages in essential sectors, such as agriculture.
EFFAT believes that the safeguarding of workers’ health and safety should be the guiding principle for any measure taken to address such labour shortages, alongside access to decent working, housing and living conditions, and the respect for fundamental social rights, including equal treatment, while at the same time recognising the particular needs of vulnerable seasonal workers.
The declaration EFFAT has co-signed sets out detailed actions employers need to take to protect seasonal workers during the COVID-19 outbreak, including:
- Workers must be contacted in their home country by telephone or by email and must be provided with relevant information about their work in the host country. Upon submitting these documents, workers will be guaranteed transport and free access to the host country in accordance with the Communication of the European Commission. The border authorities will be informed accordingly.
- Employers must ensure the application of relevant national health and safety regulation. Moreover, all workers must be provided free of charge with the necessary PPE. Social distancing must be respected during field work and in accommodation spaces.
- Prior to work-related transportation, such as from accommodation to the workplace, workers’ body temperature must be taken and masks, gloves and other hygiene equipment must be provided. Seasonal workers must be informed of the health and safety rules and protection measures in a language they understand.
- Employers guarantee that wages for seasonal workers are in accordance with the applicable collective agreements or national legislation and that seasonal workers are registered and insured in accordance with local social protection laws and collective agreements.
- The relevant medical authorities must be alerted immediately to any suspicion of COVID-19 contagion.
EFFAT General Secretary Kristjan Bragason congratulated Valentina Vasilyonova, President of the agriculture sector within EFFAT, for her contribution to the declaration. He said:
“This pandemic has shed light once more on the unacceptable working and employment conditions often affecting workers in agriculture. The declaration is a positive step forward and I am happy GEOPA have committed to these clear principles to be respected throughout Europe. It is now important that all famers in Europe respect these conditions and we call on GEOPA to help us in monitoring their implementation.
“We also encourage the European Commission to listen to our long-standing demands for practicable concrete and binding actions further to protect seasonal workers from within the EU and from third countries.”