European trade unions believe that the rights of seasonal workers in agriculture and horticulture should be legally included in the new European common agricultural policy.
An Open Brief calls for the 'social rights' of temporary workers to be laid down in the current trilogue negotiations on a new EU agricultural policy.
The Open Brief was signed by a broad alliance of more than 300 international and national trade unions, employee organizations and solidarity groups, including CNV, FNV, Greenpeace and Amnesty International from the Netherlands.
The call refers, among other things, to the beginning of last year, at the outbreak of the corona pandemic, when travel bans were imposed on large groups of foreign hired workers. They were not allowed to go anywhere, while agriculture in many EU countries was desperate for temporary workers.
The plea for the inclusion of 'social rights' in the CAP threatens to become a new obstacle for the already difficult trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the 27 LNV ministers.
Many governments have reservations about this, and point to the very large differences in the payment and treatment of (usually: foreign) hired workers. Moreover, they differ not only per country, but also per industry.
Trade unions, on the other hand, call these large differences an argument for making arrangements at EU level. The European Parliament has recently adopted a statutory minimum wage scheme. To which EU countries object that working conditions, collective labor agreements and salaries are national issues that are not subject to EU powers.
The European Parliament has strongly supported the inclusion of 'social conditionality' in the CAP. The conditions would cover working time, health and safety, and housing for mobile and migrant workers.
The Open Letter, published on February 17, proposes linking CAP direct payments (in the first pillar) to compliance with working conditions. While CAP subsidies are already dependent on things like environmental standards, public health and animal welfare, union rights, 'social rights' have so far played no role in the payment of agricultural subsidies.
Working conditions in the European agricultural sector are among the “most challenging and precarious” in the EU economy, according to signatories. They also point to common labor abuse and exploitation.
At least ten million people are employed in European agriculture, mainly as seasonal workers, day laborers or in some other precarious status, with as many as 61.2% of agricultural workers doing 'informal work'.