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17 Apr 2020

Costi Rogozanu and Daniela Gabor, The Guardian

EU: Unions demand decent pay, working conditions & coronavirus protection measures for farm workers from Eastern Europe

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"Are western Europe's food supplies worth more than east European workers' health?", 16 April 2020

...Pressed by German agriculture lobbies, the Berlin government asked the Romanian government to grant a bespoke exemption from the lockdown and clear an airbridge for farm workers.

The Romanian government agreed, admitting that it had no income support system for this group of workers...

What followed was an epic stampede of thousands of workers to board low-cost flights specially chartered for the massive airbridge... The ensuing images were shocking: a country in strict quarantine watched thousands streaming out of crammed busses into a small regional airport...

Romanians and Bulgarians also need to be so desperate for work they don’t dare ask for a pandemic wage premium even if the employer requires them to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, since switching farms will not be an option. For the duration of the contract they remain at the mercy of the employer, who alone has the power to organise the return journey.

German trade unions have denounced the pact and are demanding decent pay, working conditions and coronavirus protection measures...

This begs tough questions about what east Europeans have a right to expect after years of EU membership: is this it?

Why can we not demand a different Europe and renegotiate the social contract with it? Why is it so hard to guarantee the safety and the dignity of cross-border workers rather than reducing them to a dehumanised “labour supply” accessible with an app? ...

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Workers in agricultural supply chains among groups most at risk of COVID-19 infection

EU urged to ensure labour and health protection for migrant farm workers amid COVID-19 crisis