At least ten million people are employed in European agriculture, mainly as seasonal workers, day labourers or in other insecure statuses. Despite being defined as essential by the EU institutions and national governments when COVID-19 hit, the lived experience of many of these workers remains one of struggle, deprivation and violations of human rights. Inhuman working conditions, poor wages, long working hours, a high proportion of undeclared work and sub-standard housing are only some of the daily hardships faced by farm workers in Europe. Workers often fall prey to widespread exploitation, including gangmaster practices and other forms of modern slavery.
Although their plight remains largely invisible, farm workers, be they EU nationals or non-EU citizens, migrants or refugees, working in North, South, West or East Europe, are united in demanding rights, social justice, and dignity at work.