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The European Commission issued today the long-awaited guidelines on seasonal workers in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The new Guidelines complement the Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during COVID-19 outbreak, published on 30 March 2020 .
The newly issued text calls on Member States to ensure EU seasonal workers enjoy full equal treatment and do not suffer discrimination. Once in employment, seasonal workers  are subject to the laws and relevant collective agreements of the host Member State and must be treated the same as nationals as regards their working conditions including remuneration, dismissal and occupational safety and health. They also have the right to access the same social and tax advantages as nationals. If they become involuntarily unemployed, they retain worker status in the host Member State for six months provided they register with its employment services.
The guidelines cover also other important aspect including social security coordination, working conditions for posted workers seasonal workers, condition of admission for third country nationals, health and safety standards, accommodation and transport and the provision of information to workers.
Concerning occupational safety and health the Guidelines calls on Member States to strengthen field inspections including with the support of the European Labour Authority.  This message is of the utmost importance in view of the substantial drop in the frequency of labour inspections during the Covid-19 crisis. As far as ELA is concerned, EFFAT believes there are no more excuses for it to start functioning at full speed.
The Guidelines well consider the reality of the EFFAT sectors where small and micro enterprises make up a substantial part of the agriculture, food processing and hospitality sectors. The document well stresses the need for Member States to enhance the capacity of micro and small enterprises to put in place effective and efficient risk prevention measures.
Crucial for the EFFAT sector there is a clear reference to the need to ensure decent housing conditions including a clear encouragement for employers not to deduct rent automatically from the wage of seasonal workers. The Commission also acknowledges one of EFFAT main concerns and request of action: while the  Seasonal Workers Directive includes rules on accommodation, and the revised Posting of Workers Directive makes host country rules on the conditions of accommodation, where they exist, applicable to posted seasonal workers, there is no Union act in place to guarantee accommodation conditions for other seasonal workers. EFFAT invites the Commission to address this issue soon with legally binding measures. Deplorable housing has been one of the main reasons for covid-19 outbreaks among farm and meat workers.
Kristjan Bragason, EFFAT General Secretary, commenting on the Guidelines said: “ EFFAT welcomes these initiatives although we regret it comes too late.  A large proportion of seasonal workers are employed in the agriculture and tourism sector where we are already in the middle of the summer season. We note favorably the next steps that the Commission is proposing including the hearing with European Social partners and the invitation to ELA to coordinate an awareness-raising campaign targeted to sectors more exposed to seasonal work. It has to be clear that many of the issues reported in the paper affect all cross-border workers and not only seasonal workers. Moreover, we want to reiterate a clear message. Guidelines are a first step, but the Commission must act urgently now with binding legislative measures covering various aspects including decent housing conditions and chain subcontracting liability. At the same time, the ongoing Common agriculture policy revision is a unique opportunity to improve the conditions of farm worker. It is now long time past for the CAP to be more social with CAP payments to become conditional on the respect of applicable working conditions and collective labour agreements. EFFAT came up with a list of policy and legislative recommendations for all its sectors including targeted measures for cross-border and seasonal workers coming from the EU or third countries. We offer our support and contribution to any initiative the Commission will consider. But this has to happen quickly, our members cannot wait any longer.