European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions
Together for decent work and fair pay from farm to fork

The social partners in European Agriculture celebrate 50 years of improvements to the social situation of employers and workers

On 18 September 2013 the social partners in European agriculture – EFFAT, representing workers, and GEOPA on behalf of employers – celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their sectorial social dialogue.

Recognising the importance of European-level cooperation early on, “the agricultural sector was a pioneer and trailblazer for social dialogue at European level, encouraging and inspiring the social partners in other sectors to follow in its footsteps,” said Harald Wiedenhofer, EFFAT General Secretary.
As social dialogue is much more than informal non-binding cooperation, the agricultural social partners have successfully tackled a number of issues facing workers and employers. 
Among their victories, the social partners have achieved regulated working hours, safer use of agricultural machinery and equipment, improved occupational health and safety, changes to various instruments of agricultural policy focused on agricultural holdings and the people they employ, and support for social partners’ organisations in new EU Member States.
Nevertheless, European agriculture still faces as many political challenges as ever. “It is up to us to carry on the work of our predecessors,” said Chris Botterman, GEOPA President, referring to the social partners’ future priorities. 
Namely, these include confronting the sector’s ageing workforce and lack of young entrants into agriculture, the need for adequate training opportunities, the fight against unfair competition and bad working conditions, improved health and safety mechanisms, and a response to the economic and social consequences of international competition.
“Social dialogue is not part of the problem; it is part of the solution to the crisis,” said László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, who attended the celebration to oversee the social partners sign a Common Declaration on future work.
Indeed, “a strong, sustainable and competitive agricultural sector is absolutely essential if the European project is to succeed in the future,” urged Harald Wiedenhofer.
“Sustainable agriculture is key to a sustainable Europe,” he said.
In a round-table discussion at the celebration, panel members from EFFAT, GEOPA, the European Commission Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) debated the future of the sector’s social dialogue.
As to the question of stimulating the growth of social dialogue in new Member States, Arnd Spahn, EFFAT Political Secretary for the Agriculture Sector, said that the key task is to “transport the European community of shared values to the new Member States, where there is not so much a problem with the capacity of trade unions, but with the political will of national governments to recognise the importance of social dialogue”.
Hans-Joachim Wilms, Vice-President of the EESC, also highlighted the need for more efficiency throughout social dialogue processes, as well as the need to enhance the image of the social dialogue.
View photographs of the celebration here.

EFFAT is the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions. As a European Trade Union Federation representing 120 national trade unions from 35 European countries, EFFAT defends the interests of more than 22 million workers towards the European Institutions, European employers’ associations and transnational companies. EFFAT is a member of the ETUC and the European regional organisation of the IUF.