The ongoing virus pandemic has forced EU Member States to reintroduce internal border controls. In view of the approaching harvest, in order to prevent shortages of the workforce, which was largely made up of workers from Ukraine, Member States should allow and facilitate their crossing of borders. Thanks to the foodfakty.pl portal, we provide selected information from the guide along with the procedures available at ec.europa.eu.
- Seasonal workers play a key role during the upcoming season and the upcoming harvest. Shortage of labor during harvest and lack of employees among others from Ukraine will affect the functioning of the Polish fruit and vegetable sector. The same will apply to employees who prepare already collected food for consumers. If we don't properly ensure that seasonal workers can do their job, the entire collaboration network will be disturbed. Then the whole sector will suffer - emphasizes Paulina Kopeć, Secretary General of the Fruit Union.
According to the latest guidelines of the European Commission, seasonal workers working in agriculture or horticulture should be treated as people performing a critical profession (together with, among others, medical workers, engineers, pilots, drivers or food machinery operators). Member States should allow workers to cross borders to work, if work in the sector is still allowed in the host Member State. Employers should also be informed about the need to ensure safety and adequate health protection for seasonal workers.
- Thousands of hard-working men and women who provide us with safety, health and food on the table must cross the EU's borders to go to work. Our shared responsibility is to ensure that they do not hinder their movement, while taking all precautions to avoid further spreading the pandemic, '' emphasizes Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights.
At this time, the most important is communication between countries, which will ensure seasonal workers quickly and safely cross the border and start working, among others during the upcoming strawberry harvest. The Commission calls on Member States to set up special, non-burdensome and rapid border crossing procedures with a regular flow of border and posted workers to ensure a smooth transition. This can be done, for example, by means of special border lines for such workers or by means of special stickers recognized by neighboring Member States to facilitate their access to the territory of the Member State of employment.
- In the case of ensuring safety and health protection of seasonal workers, Member States, including Poland, should carry out medical examinations only on one side of the border to avoid waiting time and overlapping of examinations. Health inspections and tests should not force employees to leave vehicles and should be based on electronic measurement of body temperature - adds Paulina Kopeć.
Employee temperature checks should usually not be carried out more than three times during the same day. If the employee has a fever and the border authorities decide that he should not continue his journey, the employee should have access to adequate healthcare under the same conditions as nationals of the Member State of employment.
As reported by the Fruit Union, the Commission also calls on Member States to set up special procedures to ensure a smooth transition for such workers, and will use the Technical Committee on Free Movement of Workers to identify best practices that can be extended to all Member States to allow employees exercising their professions.
Full guide with procedures: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_545