MEPs fight seasonal workers’ corner
By Eric van Puyvelde | Friday 27 April 2012
Non-EU seasonal workers should be given a ‘seasonal worker permit’ to ensure minimum working conditions and social rights, for example related to pay or safety. Such is the message in a report by Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), which was approved, on 25 April, by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).
The report concerns the proposal for a directive establishing common entry and residence conditions for third-country seasonal workers, which was presented by the European Commission on 13 July 2010. Moraes was given a mandate to start negotiations with the Council in order to reach a first-reading agreement. The Commission estimates that over 100,000 seasonal workers come to the EU each year. “We want to address the exploitation of third-country, unskilled workers in the EU by ensuring a basic set of rights and minimum working conditions,” said Parliament’s rapporteur. The proposed rules are set to be the first on seasonal employment at EU level, but they will not affect member states’ right to determine admission volumes or reject applications if workers could be hired locally to do the job. EU countries should also be free to define seasonal work beyond its traditional link to agriculture and tourism activities, such as fruit picking, say MEPs. An application to obtain a ‘seasonal worker permit’ should include a work contract or a binding job offer specifying essential aspects, such as pay and working hours, say MEPs. It should also include evidence that the worker will benefit from adequate accommodation.
Seasonal workers should have the right to join a trade union and have access to social security, pensions and public services, except for public housing and employment services. Travel documents will be granted according to length of the stay: a Schengen visa for stays up to three months and a long-stay visa or a residence permit for stays between three and six months.
MEPs amended the proposal so that a six-month limit would apply over a 12-month period, instead of within a calendar year, to accommodate winter seasonal workers. Seasonal workers could extend their contracts or change employers within the six-month limit.
Employers and subcontractors in breach of their obligations would be subject to “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” sanctions and would have to compensate the seasonal worker concerned.
“We want to address the exploitation of third-country, unskilled workers in the EU by ensuring a basic set of rights and minimum working conditions”