Friday 10 July 2020

Farmers call for more scope to bring in non-EU seasonal workers

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Farming organistion LTO Nederland wants parliament to make it easier to bring seasonal workers to the Netherlands from outside the EU, and hopes the issue will be a major theme at next year’s general election.

The organisation says it wants the next government to introduce a work permit of up to nine months so that non-EU nationals can come to the Netherlands to work, particularly for the harvest.

Strict rules on salaries and skill shortages currently apply to non-EU work visas but the LTO says the government should make an exception for farmers. ‘The strong economy and shortage of workers demands an influx of labour migrants for specific seasonal work, from inside and outside the EU,’ the organisation said.

‘Adequate housing’, pay in line with official agreements and the necessary insurance will also be key, LTO said.

The LTO’s plea comes at a time when the conditions which seasonal workers are currently living and working in are under the spotlight because of coronavirus.

The virus has spread among workers at several meat processing plants and at fruit farms, and officials say the cramped conditions the mainly eastern European workers live in may have contributed to the spread.

Workers at two more fruit farms in the south of Gelderland were found to have Covid-19 during tests last week.

Controls

Earlier this month, MPs agreed that staffing agencies need to improve the accommodation and transportation they provide to workers they hire out to the meat and market garden industries.

They also agreed to ask the Council of State to look into a plan drawn up by ChristenUnie and the SP last year to regulate migration within the EU, particularly when it comes to hiring in cheap workers from central and eastern Europe.

‘Labour migration has become a way for big employers to make money,’ ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Seegers told the Volkskrant last December, when the two parties published the plan.

‘They used to bring in cheap workers from Turkey and Morocco and now it is eastern Europeans. That is keeping wages artificially low and pressuring the bottom of the labour market. There are thousands of people living on welfare benefits who we should not write off.’

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