EU member states told to ‘exchange information’ on seasonal worker needs

The European Commission has issued guidelines for EU member states to follow to ensure the continued movement of workers, including seasonal agriculture workers.

For seasonal workers, particularly in the agriculture sector, members states are being asked to exchange information on their different needs, and to establish specific procedures to ensure a “smooth passage” for such workers.

The commission pointed out that these steps are necessary to avoid labour shortages as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Seasonal workers in agriculture perform, in certain circumstances, critical harvesting, planting and tending functions.

Member states have been told to treat seasonal agricultural workers as “critical workers”. Countries have also been told to communicate to the employers of these workers the necessity “to provide for adequate health and safety protection”.

Nicolas Schmit, the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “Thousands of women and men working hard to keep us safe, healthy and with food on the table need to cross EU borders to go to work.

“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that they are not hindered in their movement, while taking every precaution to avoid further spread of the pandemic,” Commissioner Schmit said.

While it is understandable that member states have introduced internal border controls to limit the spread of the coronavirus, it is imperative that critical workers are able to reach their destination without delay.

These guidelines are in response to requests by EU heads of states and governments to address this issue.

On March 26, the heads of states and governments jointly said: “We will urgently address, with the assistance of the commission, the remaining problems concerning EU citizens blocked at internal EU borders and prevented from returning to their home countries, and cross-border and seasonal workers.

“These workers have to be able to continue essential activities while avoiding further spread of the virus,” the heads of states and governments said.