Based on a preliminary assessment, EFFAT welcomes aspects of today’s long-awaited publication of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, but regrets that it leaves many social questions unanswered. Responding to the announcement, EFFAT’s General Secretary, Kristjan Bragason, writes:
We welcome the fact that the Commission has listened to some of our concerns, identifying clear objectives to improve the situation of workers employed along the food chain. But we are worried by the absence of effective and concrete actions to achieve those objectives.
Social fairness was presented as a key guiding principle of the Green Deal – a point we have been raising with decision-makers in recent months in relation to the Farm to Fork Strategy. It is also clear that the coronavirus outbreak has exposed to a wider audience the reliance in Europe on the underpaid and unseen efforts of workers in essential sectors, such as agriculture and food production.
So it is encouraging to see in the Farm to Fork Communication that the Commission has paid attention to “the importance of critical staff, such as agri-food workers.” The commitment “to mitigate the socio-economic consequences impacting the food chain and ensure that the key principles enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights are respected, especially when it comes to precarious, seasonal and undeclared workers” is a constructive step forward.
EFFAT also notes positively the Commission’s acknowledgement that “workers’ social protection, working and housing conditions as well as protection of health and safety will play a major role in building fair, strong and sustainable food systems.”
Still, we regret the lack of effective and specific actions in the draft action plan to realise these goals. And we will be pressing for more substantial consideration of workers in the hospitality sector, which goes as we feared largely unnoticed.
There are also many other weaknesses in the announced Strategy: it will be used to strengthen only the environmental dimension of the CAP and not the social one, planned reductions in pesticide use do not factor in health risks to workers, and strategies to promote healthy and sustainable food consumption may not sufficiently address the lack of consumer awareness about the real human costs of cheap food.
From the outset, EFFAT endorsed the ambitious environmental goals set for the Farm to Fork Strategy. We fully acknowledged the urgent need for action to build sustainable and forward-looking food and farming systems, for the sake of workers and the planet. But we reiterate that to achieve true sustainability, the Farm to Fork Strategy must secure the support of unions and workers. We encourage the Commission to work with EFFAT to build on this first proposal and devise a strategy that is comprehensive and above all ensures a just transition for our sectors and a decent life for workers throughout the food chain.