CAP Reform | Broad Coalition Demands Social Conditionality For A Fairer CAP

Image credit: European Federation of Food Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions

Social conditionality must be part of the next CAP reform, says an open letter to the co-legislators. Signed by a broad coalition of over 100 organisations, including ARC2020, the letter presents a united front for social justice to the trilogue negotiations.

Read the open letter here

The people that help to feed Europe suffer some of the worst working conditions in the EU. Over the past year, the COVID-19 crisis has made this harsh truth impossible to ignore. Yet astonishingly, agricultural workers don’t get a mention in the CAP, a policy that accounts for a third of the EU’s budget.

Now is the time to make social conditionality part of the CAP, says today’s open letter to key Commissioners, MEPs, and national agriculture ministers.

The letter is co-signed by some 50 European and international organisations and 120 national groups, including trade unions, NGOs and CSOs, as well as dozens of experts in labour law, human rights, agriculture and related areas.

Easily applicable solution

Co-legislators have within reach “a concrete and easily applicable solution”: make direct payments to employers conditional on how they treat their workers.

Encouragingly, the European Parliament backs these demands:

The European Parliament has adopted a clear position: CAP direct payments must be conditional on respect for the applicable working and employment conditions under relevant collective agreements, national and EU law as well as ILO conventions.

Now, with the trilogue negotiations on the new CAP underway, the signatories are calling on the co-legislators and Member States to make social conditionality part of the final deal.

Negotiations between the EU institutions on the new CAP are ongoing and it is now crucial that social conditionality becomes part of the final agreement between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The position of the European Parliament should be confirmed and further strengthened.

“Essential” workers

Many of the EU’s 10 million agricultural workers are vulnerable to exploitation and modern-day slavery. Most work under precarious conditions, be it as seasonal workers, day labourers or in other insecure statuses.

The lived experience of many of these workers remains one of struggle, deprivation and violations of human rights.

Yet while respect for basic environmental standards, public health and animal welfare have become part and parcel of the CAP, “compliance with human and labour rights plays absolutely no role in the allocation of direct payments,” states the letter.

It’s no surprise, then, that the CAP has largely failed to improve the lot of agricultural workers.

The case to be made is not just ethical:

This is the only way to avoid social dumping, ensuring that the CAP can protect all those farmers who do respect workers’ rights, but suffer unfair competition from those that do not. And with social conditionality, a relevant part of the EU budget – funded by EU taxpayers – will finally contribute to improving working and living conditions in one of the most challenging and precarious sectors of the EU economy.

United front

A broad coalition has rallied around this call for social justice in the agriculture sector, one of the most challenging and precarious of the EU economy.

Although their plight remains largely invisible, farm workers, be they EU nationals or non-EU citizens, migrants or refugees, working in North, South, West or East Europe, are united in demanding rights, social justice, and dignity at work.

Spearheaded by the European Federation of Food Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions, the open letter sees trade unions come together with civil society organisations and NGOs at European, international and national level, with a clear ask for the architects of the new CAP.

“Where the lived experience of a vast proportion of agri-workers is one of struggle and poor wages, it is unacceptable to see that respect for human and labour rights play absolutely no role in the allocation of the EU CAP direct payments,” commented Kristjan Bragason, EFFAT General Secretary, on the launch of the letter. “Without respect for labour standards, CAP will never be truly sustainable.”

Read the open letter here