When Covid-19 hit, at least ten million people who produce and farm our food in the EU were quickly defined as essential workers. Our food supply depends on them – but they are still routinely subject to widespread exploitation including forms of modern slavery.
Inhumane working conditions, poor wages, long working hours, substandard housing are some of the daily hardships faced by farm workers across Europe. Labourers – both those who have migrated to EU countries as well as EU citizens – face routine precarity.
Meanwhile, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), pays out about a third of the bloc’s total budget to farmers with no penalties for abusing their workers’ rights. There are (rightly) conditions for basic environmental standards and animal welfare, but nothing to dictate how workers should be treated. This longstanding problem has only been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A solution however, could be in sight. The reform of the CAP is underway and the European Parliament has adopted a position calling for direct payments made under the CAP to be conditional on respect for the applicable working and employment conditions under relevant collective agreements, national and EU law as well as conventions of the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Representatives from the European Parliament are now negotiating with their counterparts from the European Commission and European Council for a final agreement on a reformed CAP. Together with over 300 other organisations, we are today calling for the European Parliament’s position to be implemented in the final CAP agreement. Farm workers urgently need legal protection from exploitation.