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Water & Jobs: Portuguese Agro-Food Union Calls for Comprehensive Measures to Defend Rural Employment

Posted to the IUF website 26-May-2005

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The IUF's agro-food and forestry affiliate in Portugal, SETAA, has called on the government to introduce comprehensive measures to defend rural employment and social security threatened by the country's prolonged drought. The union estimates that some 50,000 jobs in agriculture, food and forestry have already been lost or are immediately threatened as a result of the serious depletion of ground water and water reserves. Meeting in emergency session, the SETAA executive expressed support for state assistance to drought-stricken farmers, but noted that the seasonal nature of most work in the sector left workers highly vulnerable to employer attacks on employment and social security support measures. "Employers were taking advantage of these characteristics to privilege the deregulation of working conditions, with the lack of legal social security contributions corresponding to the days worked, despite SETAA�s permanent demands and warnings."

The union therefore is calling on the government and employers to implement a series of comprehensive measures which include

- emergency legislation to prevent the dismissal of workers employed by farmers who receive national or community drought-related assistance or support

- an obligation to direct at least 45% of all such aid to measures to defend rural jobs

- creation of an emergency program of continued vocational training for seasonal workers unemployed as a result of the drought

- national negotiations with the relevant employers organizations to develop permanent measures to secure employment in the context of the current and future droughts

- government action to secure sufficient unemployment and other benefits for the seasonal workers who make up 90 percent of Portugal's agricultural workforce.

Click here for the full text of SETAA's statement and programme.