Empowering Workers for a Better Information, Consultation and Participation in Agriculture Sector

International Workshop

International Workshop

The international workshop was realized on 20/7/2023 and attended by 19 people representing the participating countries. The meeting had as object to share the results of the project, present the examples of facilitated transnational cooperation, implementation of the European Green Deal in participant countries.  Discussing the findings and recommendations of the research, country specific recommendations, international best practice, and benefits of employee engagement in agricultural sector

The aim of the meeting was to present results of research and National Reports from all participating countries, to discuss key findings (especially recommendations for improving workers’ participation in agricultural sector), and to present and discuss coming project activities and deliverables (i.e. practical manual and e-learning platform). The workshop was moderated by expert.

After introductory message from the project leader Federazione Nazionale Agriculture (Italy), national experts from all participating countries presented results of their research and content of National Reports. Partners from some countries reported problems with carrying out the research, however, all partners managed to carry out research, and get results, including on problems in implementing workers’ participation in practice and recommendations for its improvement.

Results of national research proved the starting hypothesis that practices of information and consultation of workers are less developed in agricultural sector than in industry, mostly due to structure of the sector and working conditions. Due to high share of small producers and high frequency of seasonal work, it is difficult to cover all of the sector with information and consultation procedures. There are also other specific circumstances in the agricultural sector in each country, as the size, importance and structure of the sector differ among them.

However, all the countries have at least smaller number of large companies operating in agriculture, and in many cases workers in such companies are organized in trade unions and/or have initiated setting up of information and consultation procedures. Unfortunately, not much concrete examples of good practices were identified through research, although results show that existence of such cases, although is smaller number, is probable.

Carrying out the research was especially challenging in Slovenia, where tripartite social dialogue between the Government and the social partners collapsed in 2022, which made implementation of planned project activities challenging. General assessment was that workers’ participation is not very well organized in practice. This was also the case in North Macedonia, where the workers’ participation was assessed as “existing only as a legal framework, but not in practice”. In North Macedonia there are only three large agricultural companies, which makes limited space for developing information and consultation practices in this sector.

In Italy, specific challenge is presented by a large share of foreign workers, which are, due to language barrier, often unaware of their legal labour rights. While the new law introduced lot of different rights related to information and consultation, details on their implementation need to be set up by collective agreements, as the legal norms are relatively general. One of conclusions of research for Italy was that the trade unions could and should do more for ensuring respect of workers’ rights and signed collective agreements, including introducing in them more provisions on information and consultation of workers.

Poland is one of leading agricultural producers in the EU, making agriculture one of important sectors for the national economy. Research showed that information and consultation processes exist in many companies, but are often not very formal. Almost half of respondents to the online survey stated that such procedures exist in their companies. While there is certain knowledge and information on European Green Deal, this issue is currently overshadowed by strong influence of war in Ukraine on Polish agricultural sector.

Workers’ participation in agricultural sector in Serbia was assessed as weak. Research pointed that information and consultation procedures, when they take place, mostly focus on general business results and organisation of work, but rarely on more specific issues related to working conditions. However, two cases of good practices were identified, one in a large company where extensive information and consultation takes place on the issues of production and working time, and second in a smaller company where workers are included in decisions on equipment for work, organisation of work in shifts and other issues.

Agricultural sector is also very important in Spain, with a domination of small family-owned farms and unequal distribution of larger companies across the country. Currently sector is focused on issues of ecology, sustainable development, digitalisation and technological improvements of production. Research showed high consensus that European Green Deal is important topic and that both employers and workers should be included, but that tools used for their inclusion in Spain are not appropriate.

In Romania, large share of seasonal work is making information and consultation procedures difficult in practice. Research showed that stakeholders think there is a strong need for improvement of legal framework as a precondition for further development of information and consultation procedures in practice.

Research also showed that COVID-19 crisis, while not being best moment to develop new or enhance existing information and consultation procedures, clearly demonstrated their importance for both workers and employers, and presents good example of need for such procedures in times of crisis.

Research showed that in all included countries workers and stakeholders in agricultural sector are not sufficiently informed about European Green Deal, its effects on agricultural sector and role of workers in its implementation. So there is obvious need to continue working on this issue, including through development of informational and educational materials.

After presentations from all countries, moderator commented results of national research and provided some joint conclusions, which was followed by a short discussion. More joint conclusions and recommendations, which can be utilised both for production of project materials and for content of project events, is to be expected after more detailed examination of the National Reports.

In the second part of the meeting, project partners and experts were informed on upcoming project activities. Main project expert presented planned outline of practical manual and e-learning platform, which all of the project partners found acceptable. In the next phase, main project expert will work on development of both materials, while the project partners are preparing for National Seminars to be organised during autumn. First draft of the practical manual should be completed by mid-September.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only, and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.