Seasonal Migrant Workers in the east of England - how we can stop them being exploited
EAST'S MIGRANT WORKERS DENIED EU PROTECTIONS
Greens condemn missed opportunity
EURO-MPs have agreed to adopt a common system for ensuring that seasonal workers from outside the EU, providing essential labour in the EU economy, are paid and housed properly anywhere in Europe.
But the UK Government has already opted out of the new rules in a move which the Green Party in the east of England has condemned.
The 'Seasonal Workers Directive' was adopted by a majority of MEPs yesterday, the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of 23 unprotected Chinese migrant workers in Morecambe Bay.
It guarantees access to rights enjoyed by other workers in their country of employment – particularly minimum wage legislation – and, crucially, the right to take action against rogue employers.
It also sets a maximum length of stay for migrant seasonal workers.
But the UK has already said it will opt out of the new rules, so the protection will not apply to the thousands of fruit pickers, tourist guides, hotel cleaners and other seasonal workers currently in the UK.
Eastern England's prospective-MEP for the Greens, Rupert Read said:
"What a missed opportunity this is for this region and for this country. This excellent new European safeguard would have helped avert a future Morecambe Bay tragedy.
"Just as importantly, it would have helped low-paid British workers too by ensuring that their pay and conditions are not undercut by ruthless gangmasters exploiting workers from abroad.
"Green policy is to help low paid workers in this way and it is crucial here in the East, where we have many migrant seasonal workers on the land. But the British Government has stupidly opted out of this protection, presumably because they don't want to upset fat-cat friends of theirs who profit from the blatant exploitation of some migrant workers."
London's Green MEP Jean Lambert, a long-time colleague of Rupert Read's, worked on the new rules with the Parliament's Employment Committee. She is also the Green Party's Immigration Spokesperson. Ms Lambert said:
"All too often migrant seasonal workers from outside the EU live in makeshift housing and are forced to work long hours for low pay, often without any type of contract.
"But the new rules mark an important step towards addressing their vulnerable and uncertain situation. MEPs have voted to establish the general right of equal treatment, albeit with some exemptions, as well as sanctions against employers.
"This is crucial to deter unscrupulous employers who try to exploit the precarious situation in which seasonal workers often find themselves and stops such employers trying to undercut basic wage agreements. MEPs also supported the right to adequate accommodation to stop the practice used by some employers of charging so much, it leaves workers permanently in debt to them".