The IUF’s European regional organization IUF-EFFAT has consistently demanded greater legal protection for seasonal migrant workers, whose precarious situation has been ruthlessly exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 16, in response to urgent calls for action by unions and the European Parliament, the European Commission issued ‘Guidelines on Seasonal Workers in the EU in the Context of the COVID-19 Outbreak‘.
The Guidelines aim to promote equal treatment and non-discrimination with respect to nationals by encouraging member states to take appropriate action to ensure that seasonal workers are covered by relevant national laws and collective agreement with regards to pay, dismissal, health and safety and tax and social security arrangements. Seasonal workers who lose their jobs retain their legal status as workers for 6 months, provided they register with the employment services. The Guidelines also call for strengthening occupational health and safety inspection and supervision of accommodation and transport.
IUF-EFFAT general secretary Kristjan Bragason welcomed the initiative, but regretted it came late, particularly in tourism and agriculture, key IUF sectors already in peak season, saying “Guidelines are a first step, but the Commission must act urgently now with binding legislative measures… including decent housing conditions and chain subcontracting liability.” He also stressed the importance of the ongoing review of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy as an important opportunity to improve the situation of all workers in European agriculture by conditioning financial support for the sector on respect for collective agreements and concrete improvements in agricultural workers’ living and working conditions.