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MOBILEurope. Collective bargaining for mobile workers in Europe in relation to COVID-19 - cases of frontier, seasonal and migrant workers.

MOBILEurope is a 2-year research project, implemented in 2022-2024, aimed at improving expertise in the field of industrial relations. The research will be carried out in 6 countries - 4 EU Member States: Spain, Greece, Portugal, Poland, and 2 candidate countries: Serbia and North Macedonia.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many emergency measures have been taken restricting the free movement of workers and services, as well as measures introduced to protect workers and workplaces. Many mobile workers, who in the EU operate in key sectors such as care, construction, infrastructure, transport, logistics, food and agriculture, have faced particular challenges as a result of the lockdown. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the problems of the internal market, where mobile workers (frontier, seasonal and migrant workers), whose work requires the freedom of movement, are particularly vulnerable to marginalization due to the lack of appropriate and coordinated countermeasures.

A coordinated approach at EU level (COM(2020) 499 final) was therefore crucial to enable such workers to continue crossing internal borders. On March 30, 2020, the European Commission published its guidance on the use of free movement of workers during the COVID-19 outbreak (2020/C 102 I/03), which is intended to serve as an "integrated approach to effective border management to protect public health while preserving the integrity of the internal market'. According to these guidelines, “Member States should permit and facilitate the crossing of borders for workers, in particular but not only those working in the healthcare and food sectors and other essential services. Host Member States should allow such workers to enter their territory and have unrestricted access to their workplaces. Member States are urged to establish special, non-burdensome, fast-track border crossing procedures with regular movement of frontier and posted workers. As regards seasonal workers in agriculture, in the event of a labour shortage in the host Member State and if they carry out critical work related to harvesting, planting or tending, they should be treated in the same way as workers in the critical occupations referred to above".

However, the ETUC’s (European Trade Union Confederation) comments on the Commission's COVID-19 Free Movement Guidelines emphasized that the existing measures and recommendations do not sufficiently address the specific problems faced by mobile workers related to issues such as taxation, social security, access to sickness benefits as well as access to information, protection of health and safety, decent housing, sanitation and healthcare.

Main goals of the project:
- study the impact of the COVID-19 crises on frontier, seasonal and migrant workers in terms of employment, working conditions and social protection in the six countries covered by the study
- study the role and impact of social dialogue and collective bargaining to mitigate COVID-19 challenges for frontier, seasonal and migrant workers
- develop findings and draw conclusions on how social partners can work together, explore challenges at national and EU level to guarantee mobile workers' socio-economic rights

Some of the project outcomes will include:
- 6 country reports (based on desk research, results of surveys with mobile workers, interviews with social actors and/or focus groups)
- 1 comparative analysis that will provide data (based on the research carried out) on current trends in 4 EU Member States and 2 Candidate Countries with specific industrial relations and provide recommendations and conclusions for further theory and practice in Europe.

At least 6 meetings will be organized in the countries covered by the study, to which the social partners (researchers, scientists, workers' associations, public officials responsible for labour policy) will be invited to discuss the results of the research and develop actions to support mobile workers in their employment conditions. Finally, an international seminar on benchmarking results will take place.

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