Trade union information booklet for seasonal foreign workers in Germany

Brief: 

In August 2003, German and Polish trade unions organizing in the agriculture sector – IGBAU and ZZPR – continued their long-running cooperation by jointly publishing a bilingual information booklet aimed at Polish seasonal workers in German agriculture. The publication provides seasonal workers with a wide range of information on legal and trade union matters.

The problem addressed by the campaign: 

Polish seasonal workers in Germany were subject to poor working conditions and were unclear about the social benefits to which they are entitled.

Solution: 

The German IGBAU trade union and Polish ZZPR trade union published a bilingual informational booklet providing assistance for Polish seasonal workers in Germany. The new trade union booklet was the first of its kind for seasonal workers in Germany. The booklet addresses the needs of Polish seasonal workers; it gives important information about legal migration, employers’ obligations and the national social security system.

Impact: 

The practice helps protect Polish seasonal workers’ rights in Germany, including social security provisions and social benefits, with the aim of improving working conditions for these workers and contributing to the well-being of the families they leave behind.

Why has it worked?: 
  • The publication of this document is a broad-based and participatory approach that involves governments and trade unions from both Germany and Poland.
  • The booklet gives advice on how the trade union can help its members in legal cases involving conflicts with the employer that may occur during the seasonal employment, and provides the addresses and phone numbers of regional trade union offices.
  • In 2003, IGBAU also launched a new semi-annual publication, L@ndworker, which provides background information about working conditions in agriculture.
Conclusions and Recommendations: 

Migrant workers are often ignorant of their rights and entitlements in host countries and are therefore vulnerable to abuse in the workplace. Collaboration between governments and unions across countries where migration occurs can help ensure that relevant information is not only compiled but also accessed by those who most need it.

Foundational Issues: 
Information gaps
Level of Collaboration: 
Level 2: Collaboration across organizations within a country
Region: 
Europe
Economic and political context: 
  • In 2002, the Central Employment Agency (Zentralstelle für Arbeitsvermittlung, ZAV) of Germany’s Federal Employment Service (Bundesanstalt für Arbeit, BA) registered about 300,000 seasonal employment contracts, of which 275,000 were in agriculture and forestry.
  • Some 244,000 seasonal employment contracts in agriculture were concluded with workers from Poland (some workers may have more than one contract during a year). Seasonal employment is officially limited to 90 days per worker per year.
About the Author(s): 

Since the 1990s, when the numbers of Polish workers in agriculture increased, transnational cooperation has been established between IGBAU and ZZPR, which are both members of the European Federation of Trade Unions in Food, Agriculture, Tourism and Allied Branches (EFFAT).