Every year, hundreds of thousands of Romanians leave to work temporarily in Western European countries.
Italy and Spain, followed by Germany and the UKmore recently, are the main countries of destination.
/Types of work
Seasonal labor is most of the time physical labor and has negative consequences on workers' health.
The food Industry
„A lot of people have ruined themselves abroad. It’s not that easy” (Pompiliu C.)
Reasons for leaving
Job insecurity, lacking the opportunity to earn a decent income, to get bank loans for a house, to make savings or have a retirement plan, forces Romanian workers to accept short-term employment in Western countries.
The income earned in just a few months of seasonal work abroad far surpasses a year’s minimum wage in Romania.
Minimum wage across Europe, în 2020
Minimum wage in Romania
Minimum wage in Belgium
Minimum wage in Germany
Minimum wage in the UK
Minimum wage in France
Minimum wage in Spain
The deregulation and flexibilization of the labor market
For many years now, across Europe, there has been a tendency toward the deregulation and flexibilization of the labor market, which has reduced protective measures for employees in relation to their employers.
This has considerably weakened the workers’ standing before business owners. In the absence of any form of self-organization, the workers are increasingly vulnerable to abuse and forms of exploitation.
Different types of contracts
through temporary work agents
through abroad recruitment agencies
through secondment contracts
through free independent contract agreements
informal recruitment, through relatives and friends
Romanian's temporary jobs abroad are “precarious work”, as they are defined by one of the following characteristics:
(1) instability – uncertainty regarding work continuity;
(2) insufficient protection against workplace abuse (discriminatory practices, wrongful termination), as well as insufficient social protection (access to pension plans, health care, unemployment benefits, etc.);
(3) the lack of individual or collective control over working conditions, pay, working hours, etc.;
(4) uncertainty regarding remuneration – an insufficient or irregular income;
During the COVID-19 pandemic precarious work becomes essential work.
European countries tried to protect themselves from the spread of the new Coronavirus by closing their borders to foreign citizens. Initially, governments turned toward the local workforce (the unemployed, refugees, university students, the retired), hoping they would manage to find the hundreds of thousands of workers needed to harvest fruit and vegetables.
But their efforts failed. Therefore, in early April, international travel restrictions for seasonal workers were lifted.
/Workers in the press
Romanian seasonal workers became “saviors” or “critical workers” and were appreciated for their resilience to hard work in agriculture.
Romanian fruit pickers flown to UK amid crisis in farming sector
Romanian workers are being flown in to help feed Britain amid a continuing recruitment crisis in the agriculture sector. Special charter flights have started flying into the UK from Bucharest with desperately needed workers for British farms that risk losing their crop of early summer fruit and vegetables because of the coronavirus lockdown.
First plane carrying 150 'critically important' Romanian fruit pickers who will join 'land army' battling to save Britain's harvest lands at Stansted
The first plane carrying 150 'critically important' Romanian fruit and vegetable pickers landed at Stansted this afternoon. The young Romanians, a mix of men and women and all wearing face masks and gloves, filed out of the near empty airport in groups of five to comply with social distancing rules. They were then transported by buses to a 7,000 hectare super farm in East Anglia ahead of the start of the picking season on Monday.
Austria sets up night train service to bring care workers from Romania
Austria is setting up a weekly night train connection passing through Hungary into Romania to bring care workers across largely closed borders during the coronavirus pandemic. The Alpine republic’s nursing care system is heavily reliant on eastern European labour, and it has opened its borders to workers commuting short distances from neighbouring Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia.
Forms of solidarity
Even though they are considered essential for the societies in which they work, seasonal workers are often faced with abuse or violations of their contractual rights.
In some cases, they are forced to resort to protests and other collective forms of airing their grievances.
When they saw us protesting out in the street, they joined us. And they were shouting with us, and they came and kissed me and told me, 'Don’t worry, Anca, dear, we’re on your side.' The whole country saw it.
- Article on beyondeurope.net
- 23 may 2020
- Read more
In Germany, the Faire Mobilität trade union initiative provides seasonal workers with information in Romanian, mobilizes help and protest participants.
The pandemic was like a magnifying glass that showed us, down to the last detail, how far the exploitation can go, but especially how little regular citizens care about where the food on their table comes from.
- Article on teleleu.eu
- 30 November 2020
- Read more
On Facebook seasonal workers’ groups people exchange information about the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, about the working conditions and the reliability of different employers and intermediaries.
The 'Harvesting Solidarity' project is our message of solidarity with the mobile workers and their right to decent work and a decent life.
The consequences of deregulating the labor market in European countries are far more strongly felt by Eastern European workers. In their countries, governments fail to provide them with decent living wages.
Once they arrive to work abroad, both Western and Eastern states fail these citizens, in their mission to protect their rights.