ETUC backs new EU pledge to end exploitation of cross-border workers

Vulnerable cross-border workers could finally benefit from tougher enforcement of employment rights in a new EU push to protect them from exploitation, which the ETUC welcomes.

EU countries depend on seasonal workers for vital work like harvesting food, but they often face deplorable working and living conditions. Europe’s nearly 2 million posted workers are also too often swindled out of wages, social security contributions and holidays.

A European Parliament resolution, set to be debated today (Thursday) before a vote on Friday, calls on the European Commission to “safeguard seasonal and cross-border workers” by ensuring their health and safety at work, decent working conditions and the principle of equal pay for equal work, including through more labour inspections.

Nicolas Schmit, the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, has already this week pledged to put an end to exploitation of seasonal workers after admitting he was “horrified” by conditions faced by eastern European workers in German slaughterhouses.

Responding to these developments, ETUC Deputy General Secretary Per Hilmersson said:

“For too long, some unscrupulous companies have got away with making profit by exploiting vulnerable cross-border workers. On top of low wages, they are often subjected to unsafe workplaces, unsanitary living conditions and are swindled out of rights like holiday pay.  

“The Covid-19 crisis has again exposed the appalling conditions that are faced by many cross-border workers doing tough work in slaughterhouses, farms or building sights. Finally, politicians have woken up to this scandal taking place in the shadows and are willing to act.

“Cross-border workers have the same rights as local workers on paper and the EU and Member States now needs to ensure this principle is enforced in practice.”

The ETUC calls on the European Commission and Member States to:

  • Enforce existing legislation on occupational safety and health and the equal treatment of all workers through more inspections
  • Ensure that cross-border workers have access to information, decent accommodation, social protection, trade union support and possibilities of reporting abuse
  • Make the European Labour Authority fully operational as soon as possible  
  • Tackle abusive subcontracting of work to prevent social dumping and exploitation of workers
  • Urgently put the revised Posted Workers Directive into national law in all member states
  • Stop public funding to employers with unacceptable working conditions and working environments or who refuse collective bargaining


Essential but unprotected: new briefing by the European Trade Union Institute on cross-border workers:   


ETUC Deputy General Secretary Per Hilmersson
Communiqué de presse