Non-EU seasonal workers to get equal rights
By Benjamin Fox
Foreign seasonal workers in the EU will have the same employment and social rights as their EU counterparts, under new rules adopted by the European Parliament on Wednesday (5 February).
MEPs in Strasbourg signed off on the bloc's first set of pan-EU rules on temporary seasonal workers which will give them the same work-place rights as EU nationals on minimum pay, working hours, holidays, and health and safety requirements.
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The European Commission estimates that over 100,000 third-country seasonal workers come to the EU every year.
The legislation requires all applications to enter the EU as a seasonal worker to include a work contract or a binding job offer specifying essentials such as pay and working hours.
In one of the main concessions from governments to MEPs, it will also have to include evidence that the worker will have appropriate accommodation.
It will also give workers the right to move employment at least once and includes the threat of sanctions for unscrupulous employers.
However, governments will retain the right to decide how many seasonal workers they allow into their country each year, although they will be required to fix a maximum length of stay for non-EU seasonal workers, of between five and nine months over a 12-month period.
Governments will now have two and a half years to put the new rules into effect.
Speaking at a press conference following the vote, Claude Moraes, the British Labour MEP who piloted the bill through parliament, said that the "historic legislation" was the EU's "first piece of law on low-waged labour."
He added that the legislation, which has been three years in the making, had been drawn up in the wake of a series of scandals revealing exploitation of seasonal workers.
"People have been working in circumstances of semi-slavery," commented Spanish MEP Alejandro Cercas, who led for the parliament's employment committee on the new rules. "We simply cannot have an EU worthy of the name if we are going to treat people in such an undignified way," he concluded.