06/02/2014 EURO-MPs have agreed to adopt a common system for ensuring that seasonal workers, from outside the EU, providing essential labour in the EU economy are paid and housed properly anywhere in Europe – but the UK Government has already opted out of the new rules.
The ‘Seasonal Workers Directive’ has been adopted by a majority of MEPs today, the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of 23 unprotected Chinese migrant workers in Morecambe Bay.
It guarantees access to those rights enjoyed by other workers in their country of employment – particularly minimum wage legislation – and, crucially, the right to take action against rogue employers.
It also sets a maximum length of stay for migrant seasonal workers.
But the UK has already said it will opt out of the new rules: so the protection will not apply to the thousands of fruit pickers, tourist guides, hotel cleaners – and other seasonal workers currently in the UK.
London’s Green MEP Jean Lambert worked on the rules with the Parliament’s Employment Committee. She is also the Green Party’s Immigration Spokesperson.
Ms Lambert said: “Migrant seasonal workers coming from outside the EU are some of the most exploited workers in Europe – but play an essential role in some sectors, such as agriculture.
“All too often, they live in makeshift housing and are forced to work long hours for low pay, often without any type of contract.
“But the new rules voted through today by MEPs mark an important step towards addressing the vulnerable and uncertain situation faced by some seasonal workers in the EU. While the Greens would favour more ambitious provisions, this vote will help provide for regular, legal entry for seasonal workers from non-EU countries.
“The legislation, as adopted today, sets out the scope and the criteria for entry and stay, refusal, renewal and withdrawal of permits and workers’ rights among other things. Importantly, MEPs have voted to establish the general right of equal treatment, albeit with some exemptions, as well as sanctions against employers.
“This is crucial to deter unscrupulous employers who try to exploit the precarious situation in which seasonal workers often find themselves and stops such employers trying to undercut basic wage agreements. MEPs also supported the right to adequate accommodation to stop the practice used by some employers of charging so much, it leaves workers permanently in debt to them. We hope this new legislation will soon find its way to the statute books and be properly implemented. We want to see the end of any seasonal worker being exploited, wherever they come from.”