Spanish union demands investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Moroccan seasonal workers

May 25th 2019

On May 21, the Spanish trade union confederation of Workers' Commissions (CCOO) sent a letter to the Directorate-General for Migration calling for investigations and measures "to put an end to this undesirable scourge of facts which continue to "be denounced repeatedly in companies and farms in the province of Huelva ". According to La Mar de Onuba, a local newspaper, the union's letter follows the new complaints lodged on May 14 by several Moroccan women workers who were picking strawberries on farms in Spain.CCOO considers it as "inadmissible" that these "abominable practices" of exploitation of the workforce, non-payment of salaries, sexual harassment, deplorable housing conditions, already denounced last year, are repeated this year.

On May 20, the Provincial Court of Huelva also ordered the reopening of the lawsuit filed last summer after a complaint of sexual harassment allegations was filed by four Moroccan seasonal workers against an agricultural contractor in Almonte. The Court of Appeal found that the investigation was not completed properly as the four complainants were not properly interviewed.

In the summer of 2018, these events sparked a solidarity movement in Spain towards Moroccan seasonal workers, in particular through an event organized in front of the Ministry of Labor, Migration and Social Security in Madrid by more than twenty 'associations, mostly feminists. A report by the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) found that women workers in Huelva and regions, beyond their nationality, were at risk of oppressive dynamics of control, isolation, hardship and fragility, leading to exploitation, threats and sexual abuse by employers, temporary agencies and handlers.

On the Moroccan side, associations that closely followed the situation of "real galley" social and administrative that lived these seasonal workers who filed a complaint in 2018 also mobilized to call the Moroccan authorities to intervene. These associations were the Federation of the Democratic League for Women's Rights (FLDDF), the Union of Women's Action (UAF), Jossour and the Moroccan Association to Combat Violence against Women (AMVEF). These NGOs claimed a partnership mechanism with the Ministry of Labor, in charge of managing the seasonal work of agricultural workers in Huelva. For its part, the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH) asked the Moroccan authorities to form a commission of inquiry into these abuses.

For 2019, the Spanish agricultural sector reserved 19,000 jobs for Moroccan women workers for seasonal picking, under a bilateral agreement that was supposed to improve working conditions.