More than 100,000 workers come to Europe every year to help out in sectors such as agriculture or tourism, however they sometimes have to do so in dire circumstances. On Wednesday 5 February MEPs will debate and vote on new rules to end exploitation and improve work and housing conditions for them. We asked Claude Moraes, a British member of the S&D group who is responsible for steering the proposal through Parliament, how the new legislation would make a difference.
How will non-EU seasonal workers benefit from these new rules? Will EU workers benefit as well?
For the first time non-EU seasonal workers will have the right to benefits, such as adequate accommodation, the right to extend their stay or to change employer. There are also strong articles on equal treatment, a provision of protection against dismissal and an inspection regime. Without inspection and sanction regimes, many of the good intentions will not happen. This will ensure that non-EU seasonal workers are not exploited.
When everyone understands that seasonal workers have better standards, you level up all the standards and this is a better situation for all workers.
Can these new rules help to tackle social dumping for both EU and non EU- seasonal workers?
Although we have unemployment in Europe, there are parts in the EU that need to attract workers also from third countries. We need to ensure that it is done in a reasonable way with decent standards. If we don't get this kind of legislation ensuring those standards, you will get social dumping, undercutting, a situation of deregulation and exploitation. Bad employers will probably have an incentive to employ illegally; illegal immigration will increase, the trafficking market will be encouraged. So while this legislation won't solve all the problems overnight, it will certainly be a big step in the right direction.
Parliament has demanded stronger social protection for seasonal workers, but some members states feared additional costs. Are these fears founded?
I don't believe this legislation would have seen the light of day if member states wouldn't be satisfied that we could contain the cost. The bottom line is that good employers were satisfied that this was a price worth paying: if your workers are treated well, they will be more productive.