The Romanian and German authorities have agreed to improve collaboration as regards seasonal workers.
Dozens of Romanians protested on Tuesday before Romania's consular office in Bonn, saying that after they worked in agriculture in Germany they have been paid very little or at all. They also said they have no reason to return to Romania. This particular situation is only one of the many problems facing Romanian seasonal workers. In spite of the coronavirus pandemic, many Romanians have chosen to leave the country to find work abroad, especially in agriculture. Germany is just one of their destinations.
On the night of April 8th, while Romania was in a state of emergency, around 2 thousand people left the country for Germany, to work in agriculture. Once there, they complained about the poor living and working conditions. It is still unclear if the transport of several thousand people to Germany was eased by the Romanian authorities or if the workers organized themselves, found buses and charter flights that transported them to Germany from the quarantined town of Suceava. What is certain is that they did not observe the protection measures in place and did not resort to job recruitment and employment agencies.
Romanian Labor Minister, Violeta Alexandru, who was heard by Parliament last week alongside Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, discussed, early this week, with her German counterpart, Hubertus Heil and the German Minister for Food and Agriculture, Julia Klockner. Minister Alexandru encouraged Romanian workers to file complaints every time their rights are being violated. Hubertus Hail said in turn that mass infection, as it was the case in some German slaughterhouses, was unacceptable and even embarrassing and that Romanians workers must have the same right to social protection, safety and labor security as German workers. Ministers Alexandru and Heil signed a joint declaration in order to boost cooperation in the labor force sector and social policies. At the same time, in Bucharest, Parliament approved the initiative of the Social Democrats to set up a commission tasked with the investigation of possible irregularities regarding the transport of Romanian seasonal workers abroad, during the pandemic.
Romania is the main supplier of seasonal workers in agriculture for the Western countries, which has prompted the employers’ unions in those respective countries intensely lobby their governments, followed by diplomatic steps being taken by the western authorities with the Romanian government. Thus, in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, when flights towards most EU states were suspended, around 30 thousand Romanian workers travelled to Western Europe, to work in agriculture. (Translated by Elena Enache)