The Council of Ministers approved a royal decree on Tuesday to urgently incorporate more labor into the Spanish fields and avoid a food shortage and the rise in prices in the midst of a pandemic. The text, advanced by EL PAÍS, makes the hiring of unemployed and immigrants more flexible to tackle the lack of workers facing agricultural productions in Andalusia, Murcia, the Valencian Community, Extremadura, Aragon and Catalonia. According to the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, between 75,000 and 80,000 seasonal workers are missing to guarantee the harvests.
The final version of the royal decree excludes two groups of immigrants who were included in the drafts. There will be no extraordinary work authorizations for asylum seekers who have been in Spain for less than six months and therefore do not have a work permit, nor for those immigrants whose papers were pending administrative processing.
The decree does maintain the extension of permits for foreign workers whose contracts would expire during the period between the declaration of the state of alarm and June 30 and also the granting of authorizations for young ex-guard migrants between 18 and 21 years of age who have permission to residence but not work.
The approved measures, in any case, have as a priority the unemployed. Specifically, it will allow the unemployment benefit or the cessation of activity of the self-employed, agricultural subsidies or any other social or labor aid to be made compatible with work in the campor. Agriculture details that those affected by Temporary Employment Regulation Files (ERTE) may also benefit from the measure, but it introduces a caveat: it excludes those workers whose activity has been suspended due to the pandemic, that is, those affected by ERTE linked to Covid-19. The self-employed who receive the extraordinary benefit for cessation of activity that was launched to face the economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic will also not be eligible.
“In the period from the publication of this decree-law until June 30, these social benefits may be made, in an absolutely exceptional and extraordinary way, compatible with the possibility of obtaining income from wages by carrying out these agricultural tasks,” said Planas. this Tuesday at the press conference after the Council of Ministers. The holder of Agriculture has added that the contracts will have to be stipulated in writing, the salary contained in the corresponding collective agreement or “in any case the Interprofessional Minimum Wage” and the payment must be made by bank transfer.
In all cases, the proximity of the worker’s home to his workplace will be essential. “The workers must be in the same municipal term or neighboring terms to limit movements that are harmful from the health point of view”, Agriculture Minister Luis Planas explained after the Council of Ministers.
Common problem in the EU
The proposed easing is intended to alleviate the “marked” lack of labor on farms due to movement restrictions and border closures imposed to curb the expansion of the coronavirus. The most important damage occurred after the closure of borders decreed by Morocco on March 13 that blocked the arrival of some 11,000 tempras from the 17,000 summoned to collect the fruits of Huelva. But inter-community restrictions have also prevented the movement of Bulgarian and Romanian seasonal workers who are employed every year in Spanish fields. The agrarian sector employs approximately 300,000 temporary employees, of whom around half are foreigners, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. The limitations of mobility also affect workers, foreigners or nationals, residents in Spain who have seen their collective movements restricted.
The problem is common in other European countries, such as Italy, France, Portugal or Germany, and the European Commission has asked member countries to establish procedures to allow the arrival of agricultural workers from third countries safely. “Each European country has done so according to its needs and its structure,” said Planas. Germany, for example, has already announced that it will ease travel restrictions on 80,000 temps from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria between April and May to ensure their harvests. In addition, it wants to attract another 10,000 workers, including the unemployed, students and asylum seekers. In the case of Spain, highly dependent on Moroccan labor, Minister Planas has ruled out trips from the neighboring country.