Unfortunately, the global epidemiological situation in 2021 is not yet under control and everything suggests that the pandemic will continue to be present in the coming months, when the next stone fruit harvest is planned to be carried out. In Catalonia, it will kick off in April.
Last year, the harvest was already marked by controversy, as seasonal workers seeking employment were spotted sleeping in the streets of Lleida, and outbreaks of COVID-19 were reported in the Segrià region. This put the spotlight on the overcrowded conditions of a part of the seasonal workers, which contributed to a lockdown needing to be declared in the region in summer.
For this reason, Government, farmers' employers and unions are trying not to repeat last year's mistakes and this week they have held a meeting to start negotiating the measures to guarantee appropriate working and sanitary conditions during the harvest.
The producers, who according to Jaume Pedrós, representative of the Unió de Pagesos in Lleida, had requested the telematic meeting two months ago, have asked for the vaccination of both farm owners and day laborers against COVID and for help to open temporary shelters, which "didn't open last year for fear of contagion,” says Pedrós. There should also be greater control of the people in an irregular situation who arrive looking for work.
They also requested greater promotion of the hiring of local unemployed people. Last year, 30% of those registered in the fruit picking job bank were unemployed Spaniards; an unprecedented figure, but at the moment of truth, only 2% of the hired seasonal workers were locals. “In the end, the majority did not want to come to work,” says Pedrós.