European Food Unions asks for worker support in COVID-19 crisis

6 Apr 2020

European food industry unions and employers are calling on EU leaders to take steps to support the 4.7 million food industry workers whose jobs have been affected by COVID-19. The groups' joint letter to the government outlines four proposals that bolster the health and financial security of the workers.

In a joint statement from the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions and employers in the European food and drink industry, the organizations stated, “We are also concerned about the potential for a serious and sustained global economic downturn and the impact this will have on the workforce.”

European Food Unions asks for worker support in COVID-19 crisis

While employers and employees acknowledged the initiatives already taken by the European Commission, including the activation of the general escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) and the establishment of a Corona Investment Plan, this joint statement encouraged lawmakers to go further.

“We call on national governments to involve social partners in the designing and implementation of national measures,” according to the statement. “The only way we will be able to overcome this crisis is with more support and solidarity among Member States.”

The first request was for the European government to recognize that food and drink industry employees are “essential” workers and provide support measures such as child-care to workers. Additionally, the group asked that the government consider state-funded wages for those that are temporarily suspended from work.

The second request asked for the provision of personal protection equipment to workers that are continuing to operate their job functions. Specifically, the statement called for the acceleration of a centralized purchasing system to avoid competition as manufacturers work to provide employees with safety equipment.

Thirdly, the joint statement urged the European Commission to “establish harmonized protocols” for food sector worker safety throughout member states.

Lastly, the groups pushed for the Commission to outline comprehensive emergency measures for the food sector to re-build long term economic sustainability. To accomplish this, the groups suggested repurposing unused structural funds and other EU funds to help offset the repercussions of shutdowns to support workers affected by unemployment or suspension from work, including non-standard workers and workers employed in the subcontracting chains.

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