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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEP welcomes proposal to protect rights of seasonal migrant workers

Jean Lambert, the Green MEP for London, has welcomed the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on seasonal employment.

Employers in sectors such as agriculture, horticulture and tourism are increasingly dependent on people from countries outside of Europe to do season work. There have been many reports of crops being left to rot in the fields when too few permits for such workers have been given: this represents a lower income for producers and a waste of food.

The proposed Directive, which was presented yesterday, will define the standard contractual rights for third-country seasonal workers to protect them from exploitation and establish a common procedure for their entry and residence in the EU to allow for a more effective management of the process.

Jean, who is coordinator for the Greens on the Employment and Social Affairs Committee, said: “We hear many horror stories of the abuse of seasonal workers, whichever country they come from. This proposed Directive clearly sets out basic payment, employment, and social rights to which all such workers are entitled. However these rights are only as strong as the inspection measures which should enforce them.

“I particularly welcome that the proposal includes provisions on adequate and affordable accommodation for those from third countries, which will hopefully bring an end to the squalid and overpriced living conditions in which so many people currently doing seasonal work in the EU, particularly in the agricultural sector, are forced to live.

“When we look at the proposal we must also ensure that it deals not only with unscrupulous employers but also unscrupulous agencies which prey on people’s hopes and recruit them with promises of decent work and good wages: the reality can be very different.”

Background:

The proposal is part of a comprehensive package of measures, proposed in the Policy Plan on Legal Migration of 2005 and further endorsed by the Stockholm Programme, adopted by the European Council in December 2009. The European Union faces a structural need for seasonal work due to the fact that EU labour within this field is expected to become less and less available. The development of a well-organised legal immigration policy will therefore continue to play an important role in filling labour shortages and responding to the future demographic challenges of the Union.

In particular, the proposal:

  • establishes a simpler entry procedure for the admission of non-EU seasonal workers based on common definitions and criteria, such as the existence of a work contract or a binding job offer that specifies a salary;
  • sets a standard seasonal work time limit throughout the EU (6 months per calendar year);
  • provides for a multi-seasonal permit for three years or a facilitated re-entry procedure in subsequent seasons;
  • defines legal provisions applicable to working conditions of seasonal workers;
  • entitles seasonal workers to equal treatment with nationals of the Member States in determined fields (freedom of association and affiliation, social security schemes, income-related acquired statutory pensions, access to goods and services, etc);
  • leaves EU Member States free to apply a labour market test and to decide how many seasonal workers they admit; the proposal does not create a right to admission.