European Commission to Protect Rights of Seasonal Workers Amid COVID-19

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The European Commission has outlined plans to ensure the protection of seasonal workers in the EU/Schengen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release published by the Commission.

The plan gives guidance to national authorities, labor inspectorates, and social partners to ensure that seasonal workers’ rights, health, and safety are protected. The plan also helps to ensure that seasonal workers are to made-aware of their rights.

The reason that the Commission has set out to protect the rights of seasonal workers specifically is because under normal conditions, they can be subject to “precarious working and living conditions.” In the context of COVID-19, some of these situations could have been made even more difficult for workers to the EU/Schengen. The Commission also made it known that such situations can also make the possibility of COVID-19 clusters more likely.

The Commission’s guidelines cover several aspects, including:

  • The right of seasonal workers to work within the Schengen Area regardless of whether they are EU nationals or are nationals of countries outside of the EU.
  • “Suitable living and working conditions” to include physical distancing and hygiene requirements.
  • Clear communication to seasonal workers of their rights.
  • Undeclared work.
  • Social security aspects.

Seasonal workers are a huge part of the EU’s economy, particularly in agriculture and tourism. The EU Commission’s actions could help to protect the rights of many seasonal workers, on which large sectors of the EU’s economy depends. The new measures could also help to keep supply chains in-tact to keep supplying the EU/Schengen as a whole.

“Each year, hundreds of thousands of seasonal workers help to underpin hugely important sectors of the EU’s economy, such as food and agriculture. The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the challenging living and working conditions they face. This has to be addressed. Our guidelines are a wake-up call to Member States and companies to ensure they are fulfilling their duties to protect indispensable, yet vulnerable, workers,” said NicolasSchmit, the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights.

The press release also stated that actions in response to the current problems mentioned above are of the utmost urgency.  

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