The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is opposed to farmers being included in the list of potential beneficiaries of the Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). According to the draft EGF regulation for 2014-2020, five sixths - ie 2.5 billion - of the fund's total budget could be used for farmers affected by trade agreements.
It is the principle, more than the amount of the funds in question, that disturbs the organisation. "In our view, these cases do not come within the ambit of the EGF. Farm workers come first and foremost under the Common Agricultural Policy, in particular rural development," explained ETUC policy adviser Claude Denagtergal. "To be frank, we don't really understand the Commission's intentions," she added. The ETUC, she said, will question the Directorate-General for Regional Policy at their meeting, on 16 November.
The draft EGF regulation, presented on 6 October, proposes to broaden the scope of this EU tool, which helps to get workers who lose their jobs in the EU back into the labour market. The concept of worker' is widened: in addition to workers with open-ended employment contracts, included by Regulation 546/2009 that establishes the EGF, the concept would also cover workers with fixed-term contracts, temporary workers, entrepreneurs running micro, small or medium-sized companies and self-employed workers. More surprisingly, it would also include farmers affected by the conclusion of trade agreements (due to a sharp rise in imports into the European Union and a significant decline in prices). The regulation sets a maximum quota of 2.5 billion for this type of beneficiary, or five sixths of the total fund allocation of 3 billion for the period 2014-2020.
Anticipating reactions (almost non-existent so far), the European Commission notes that this is only a cap and that it represents no threat to aid for workers from industrial sectors. "This provision does not mean that 2.5 billion will in fact be spent to assist farm workers. It is not reserved' for them. It is simply a ceiling not to be exceeded," explained the spokeswoman for the Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Laszlo Andor.
This specific provision on farmers raises the question of job losses looming in the …