Migrant workers’ perspective central in multifaceted event on conditions in Dutch agriculture

Dr Karin Astrid Siegmann and Julia Quaedvlieg at the start of the presentation

Poor and precarious working conditions of migrant workers in Dutch agriculture are not the exceptional result of rogue employers’ illegal practices, but sanctioned by legislation and collective labour agreements. This was a key message of the ISS study 'Migrant Labour in Dutch Agriculture: Regulated Precarity' presented during a public event on 8 October 2020 in Café Utopie, The Hague (and online).

Speakers from government, the trade union movement and the agricultural sector commented on the study presented by the authors Karin Astrid Siegmann and Julia Quaedvlieg.

The candid debate was opened by a keynote by Jaap Uijlenbroek, representing the Aanjaagteam Bescherming Arbeidsmigranten (Migrant Workers Protection Taskforce – established by the Dutch government in May 2020) and by reading out a letter by a Polish migrant farmworker. The worker described the poor working and living standards that he has endured since moving to the Netherlands. This opening reflected the central role of workers’ own perspectives in the study which are often missing in policy and media discourses.

The renewed attention to migrant workers’ precarious conditions under the COVID-19 pandemic has opened a window of opportunity for intervention to move from precarity towards decent migrant work in Dutch agriculture. The authors introduced concrete policy recommendations arguing, among others, that innovative models of outreach to and organizing of migrant farmworkers through cultural mediators form the basis to strengthen migrant workers’ economic, legal and social position.

The policy brief (final version forthcoming) that was discussed during the event is based on the Netherlands chapters of the comparative study 'Are Agri-Food Workers Only Exploited in Southern Europe? Case Studies on Migrant Labour in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden' and the supplementary report 'COVID-19, Agri-food Systems, and Migrant Labour' authored by Karin Astrid Siegmann, Tyler Williams and Julia Quaedvlieg.

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