The current Spanish government formed by Socialist Pedro Sánchez and Communist Pablo Iglesias has outraged the vast majority of Spain’s professional associations, including the Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos (Coordinating Committee of Farmers and Breeders Organizations, COAG).
In mid-May, Eduardo López, secretary of organization of its Andalusian branch, was “perplexed and disgusted” by the “toxic” campaign of special inspections announced by Yolanda Díaz, the Spanish communist Minister of Labor and Social Economy to detect cases of “slavery or similar practices” in agricultural holdings in Andalusia, Spain’s second largest autonomous community.
López found it “strange and outrageous” and “couldn’t make head or tails” of such an announcement. He pointed out that he wasn’t questioning the enforcement of existing laws labor or the functioning of inspection bodies. “But we don’t understand how the government itself can convey the idea of widespread mistreatment of workers. Such cases, if they do exist, are very rare. In contrast, administrative and juristic procedures to eradicate them are plentiful”. “We are really fed up. Every year at this time, when competing countries start to put their products on the market, the same war is waged against us with this type of statements”.
During the provincial labor agreements negotiations, COAG Andalusia always fought for decent working conditions, better labor risks plans, improved health monitoring, procedures like recruitment in the countries of origin (including accommodation) and clear schedules for harvesting campaigns, to provide maximum guarantees and assure compliance with labor rights at national and international level, he emphasized.
“The government just can’t mix up settlements of illegal immigrants with the issue of agrarian labor”, López said. He also took the chance to remind the public that Spanish agriculture was being affected by a serious crisis because of a labor shortage in the middle of a pandemic. Therefore authorities should handle contracts fast to avoid any harvest going lost.
According to Luis Planas, Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, this problem has been solved. On June 9th he finally responded to his colleague’s allusions. Planas considered it “unfortunate” to speak of slavery on the fields, as it “legally ended in Spain in 1886″ and stressed the “honesty” of farmers and breeders.
Although he clearly stated that instructions for work inspections which include an annexed questionnaire are part of normal administrative tasks, at the same time he admitted that this year some “untoward words” that made reference to slavery or servitude were used.
The Asociación Agraria de Jóvenes Agricultores (Agrarian Association of Young Farmers) in Cordoba gave some examples of questions they found unacceptable: “Does the worker show signs of mistreatment, like bruises? Are there signs of mental confusion or violence? Do workers inform of threats against them, their workmates or family members?”
“All of them are inadmissible and typical for somebody acting in bad faith, driven by intolerable ideological sectarianism and completely detached from reality. Minister Díaz is therefore unfit for carrying out her duties. Consequently, Prime Minister Sánchez should dismiss her with little warning. Otherwise, it would mean that he supports this attack on our sector”, they noted. Unfortunately, in the present situation such a demand will fall on deaf ears.