The advance is noteworthy: after four years of debate with the states, the European Parliament endorsed by a huge majority(1) a compromise on the rights of non-European seasonal workers, on 5 February in Strasbourg. While the aim is to "halt extreme abuse," the vote also confirms the EU's will to encourage "legal migration" and enables it to respond to protests against "social dumping" four months ahead of European elections faced with the danger of anti-European sentiment.

"This complex issue came to the fore in particular after the terrible scenes in Italy, where seasonal workers were shamelessly exploited," the rapporteur, Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), recently told Europolitics Social. "It is also the first legal migration text since the Lisbon Treaty," he said in plenary. Other proposals on low wages and transfers of highly qualified workers within companies remain blocked.

More than 100,000 seasonal workers from the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia, North Africa and Latin America harvest grapes and pick other fruit every year in the EU. They also swell the ranks of tourism and restaurant personnel, sectors where undeclared work and exploitation are commonplace.


To prevent unfair competition, all seasonal workers, European or not, will have the same rights concerning quality of accommodation, access to health care, remuneration, safety, holidays, working time, capacity to change employment, social security, pensions and training. Social housing is not included in the list.

"We permit member states to refuse the admission of seasonal workers if European workers are available,"...

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