The Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, pledged Thursday, September 20 to offer farms affected by the removal of exemption from charges for the employment of casual workers “concrete solutions” to compensate the end of this system and safeguard their competitiveness. “I remain convinced that we must provide occasional workers and all the farms that regularly hire them with concrete solutions, quite simply to be competitive and keep farms that perform well,” said Mr. Le Maire during a press briefing. joint with his colleague from Agriculture, Stéphane Travert.
Problematic labor cost
Asked about the fact that he himself had put in place this exemption when he was Minister of Agriculture (2009-2012), Mr. Le Maire replied that “the devices pass, the problems remain”. “A few years ago, I set up this device to respond to a problem that remains unresolved, that of the cost of labor for occasional workers, in particular in viticulture or market gardening”. “Today, if you grow asparagus on one side of the Rhine or the other, you are going to be faced with a problem of labor costs and whatever the quality of Alsatian asparagus – which is exceptionally good – if the labor cost to collect them is too high, you will not be able to sell them “, underlined Mr. Le Maire.
“So we have to deal with this problem and I remain convinced, like Stéphane Travert, that we must provide a concrete solution to the issue of occasional workers for market gardening, for arboriculture and for viticulture. If this is not the case. TODE (casual worker / job seeker, Editor’s note), it will have to be other things, so we have to work on it together, “he insisted. “The Prime Minister has asked us to bring together working groups with trade unions, but also with sectors to be able to find tools that will allow us to respond to concerns,” said Stéphane Travert for his part.
Protests by the FNSEA
The FNSEA, standing up against the abolition of this exemption, has organized in recent days several local actions to “take parliamentarians to the fields” in order to make them aware of the importance of seasonal employment in rural areas. This mobilization continues, especially Friday in the Hérault. According to the FNSEA, the end of this exemption concerns 930,000 seasonal employment contracts, and causes 189 euros of additional cost per seasonal employee and per month, or 144 million euros of additional cost nationwide.
This will inevitably lead to a “further reduction of vegetable and fruit production areas in France” because “production costs in France are already 36% higher than in Italy, 27% higher than in Germany and 21% in those of Spain “according to the president of the union, Christiane Lambert. Regarding the asparagus mentioned by Bruno Le Maire, the FNSEA calculated that France had already reduced its cultivation areas by 56% between 1996 and 2016, while at the same time Germany increased them by 112%.