EU parliament: improve protection of cross-border and seasonal workers

03 July 2020

EU parliament

More action is needed to safeguard the health, safety and working conditions of cross-border and seasonal workers in key economic sectors including agriculture and food, according to EU Parliament. With the closing of internal borders, restrictions of free movement and the suspension of many economic activities, the coronavirus pandemic has underlined existing shortcomings, note MEPs.

Many mobile workers are essential to the provision of critical goods and services, and can also play an important role in efforts to foster a post-pandemic economic recovery. Parliament has adopted a resolution on the situation of cross-border and seasonal workers in the context of the COVID-19-crisis and beyond, addressing mobility, precarious working conditions and a lack of safety measures. MEPs call for protection and equal labor and social rights for all workers.

What are cross-border workers?

Frontier workers work in one EU country but reside in a neighbouring country of which they are nationals and return there daily or at least once a week. Posted workers are sent by their employer to carry out a service in another EU country on a temporary basis, in the context of a contract of services, an intra-group posting, or hiring out through a temporary agency.

Seasonal workers travel to a country to temporarily live and carry out cyclical work. These workers are often employed under short-term contracts with little job security and insufficient or no social security coverage. Those on short-term assignments also often live in group accommodation where social distancing rules are more difficult to maintain.

Labor inspectors have repeatedly reported violations of rights when it comes to working times, living conditions, health and safety standards at workplaces, although, according to EU law, mobile workers have to be treated the same way as domestic workers.

Seasonal farm workers 

An estimated 800,000 to one million seasonal workers are hired in the EU each year, mainly in the agri-food sector. EU parliament wants proper implementation of existing EU laws and better coordination between Member States to ensure equal treatment and protection for cross-border and seasonal workers, including:

  • Safeguarding workers’ health, safety, fair working conditions, including decent housing, which should be decoupled from their remuneration
  • Identifying shortcomings in EU and national legislation and possibly revising the existing legislative framework
  • Increase national and cross-border labor inspections
  • Developing solutions to combat abusive subcontracting practices and ensuring that the European Labour Authority (ELA) becomes fully operational
  • Ensuring that workers are fully informed about their rights and obligations in a language they understand, but also about risks and the safety precautions to be taken.

The Commission is expected to respond to the Parliament’s call with new specific guidelines to protect cross-border and seasonal workers in the context of COVID-19.

Published by on June 24, 2020
Image by Shutterstock


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