Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Adelle Blackett and Anne Trebilcock
Chapter 30: Harnessing the governance capacity of the European Union: Transnational labour law responses to the exploitation of migrant agricultural workers
The exploitation and rights of seasonal agricultural workers is a labour law issue, and must be addressed using labour law’s protections and machinery. Approaching seasonal agricultural work through the prism of transnational labour law sensitises us to various policy interconnections in disparate fields, such as social security policy, trade policy, international development, and human rights. Immigration policies, in particular, could—indeed should—be developed alongside an EU sustainable agricultural policy. The 2014 EU Seasonal Workers’ Directive has now recognized the need to embed labour protections and respect for social rights within immigration frameworks, although it remains to be seen whether this initiative will provide adequate effect to these social rights in practice. Workers’ social rights and protections, meanwhile, have not yet found acceptance within EU agricultural policy. The most recent reforms to the EU Common Agricultural Policy have arguably restored productionism as the dominant model of EU agriculture, with a resulting loss of focus on other policy concerns. Accommodation of broader social rights within EU policies would require a commitment to the ideal of embedded liberalism, and would require social rights and social justice to be incorporated and given effect across the policy terrain of transnational standard-setting organisations, rather than being left to an increasingly constrained domestic space.
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