On 15 June 2016, a high-level conference took place in Rome, organised by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) with the support of the three Italian unions CGIL, CISL and UIL and the participation of trade unionists from 22 countries. The meeting was attended by the European Commission, the UN refugee Agency (UNHCR), the OECD Secretary General and many prominent politicians. At the meeting, leaders underlined trade union support for a humanitarian and European response to the many men, women and children seeking shelter from conflict in the EU.
At the conference, EFFAT General Secretary Harald Wiedenhofer highlighted how the Tourism and Agriculture sectors are the main recipients of undocumented migrant workforce.
The agricultural sector in particular reports worrying cases of exploitation, lack of decent housing, working and living conditions. In Italy alone 400,000 farm workers are exploited by gangmasters in Italian fields for an average pay of 2.5 euros an hour.
Although trade unions are actively fighting on the ground against this plague, the EU can partly be held responsible. According to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), farmers are required to comply with environmental regulations – but not with social standards – in order to receive EU subsidies.
Compliance with social legislation and collective labour agreements must be at the basis of any application for and allocation of public funding and tax payers' money.
The trade union’s fight against austerity is a fight for human dignity, equal treatment and the values that lie at the core of the EU. There will never be any integration for refugees without solidarity.
At the conference, trade unions adopted the declaration ‘The European Trade Union movement demands humanitarian assistance and rights for refugees’.