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Germany flies in cheap labour under special restrictions to pick harvest

GERMANY began flying in cheap labour from eastern European countries today to pick its harvests, imposing strict restrictions on their activities to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Two planeloads of Romanian workers arrived in Berlin and Dusseldorf in a new programme that isolates them in small groups and gives them medical checks on arrival.

They must then work in a unit separated from other farmhands, wearing special gear.

Like Britain, Germany relies on seasonally importing foreign labour to pick many of its crops, allowing producers to pay lower wages and impose worse conditions on labourers than would be tolerated by citizens.

While some British producers have called for a “land army” to be mobilised from citizens to make up for shortages of foreign labour caused by the Covid-19 lockdowns across the continent, others have called for schemes modelled on Germany’s that would enable continued super-exploitation of workers from poorer countries.

German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloecker said that the scheme was a “pragmatic and goal-oriented solution” that would allow up to 40,000 seasonal workers into the country in April, and another 40,000 in May.

“This is important and good news for our farmers,” she declared. “The harvest doesn’t wait.”

Workers need to register early to participate in the scheme. Their details are checked by police, and farmers who wish to hire them have to sign up with Eurowings, the airline bringing them in, saying when and where they want the workers deployed.

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