Challenges for Workers and Unions
Edited by Carole Thornley, Steve Jefferys and Beatrice Appay
Chapter 7: Seasonal Workers in Mediterranean Agriculture: Flexibility and Insecurity in a Sector Under Pressure
7. Seasonal workers in Mediterranean agriculture: flexibility and insecurity in a sector under pressure Béatrice Mésini INTRODUCTION A new ‘circular’ migration model has been introduced at a European level covering the Mediterranean countries. The European Commission has insisted on the need to intensify labour mobility between the EU and Third World countries and has suggested adjusting labour levels to economic needs by promoting partnerships between countries of origin and host countries. In an already competitive agricultural sector, the EuroMediterranean partnership has further increased competitiveness, and is contributing to reshaping highly selective markets through regulating quotas of workers. It is introducing new forms of flexibility, precariousness and social insecurity. The notion of ‘circular’ mobility, involving migrants working for short periods in the host country and then returning to their countries of origin, highlights a change away from conceptual frameworks seeing international migrations as embedded in post-colonial relations of power and domination (Sayad, 1977) or as representing long historical cycles in expanding world markets (Balibar and Wallerstein, 1988). In 2000, agriculture in the European Union employed 4.5 million seasonal workers, of whom 500,000 were from non-EU countries. While many worked in appalling conditions, the status quo was maintained through the decade of EU enlargement, which saw both the intensification and specialization of agricultural work and the reorganization of the agricultural lobby at national and international levels. The use of a foreign seasonal workforce, an intrinsic feature of agriculture in southern European countries, has led to a dual reshaping of...
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