The most important labor flow in Spain, that corresponding to the harvest in France, is brought forward between 10 and 15 days due to the premature ripening of the grapes due to the high temperatures that the neighboring country also suffers from. More than 15,000 workers will cross the border to French wine regions such as Perpignan, Narbonne, Montpellier, Valence, Avignon, Bordeaux and Gironde.
According to the majority unions UGT and CC.OO., all these people will have a minimum salary of 10.85 euros gross per hour. Most of the contingent that will travel come from Andalusia (especially from the provinces of Jaén and Granada) followed by the autonomous communities of Valencia, Murcia and Castilla-La Mancha.
It is estimated that the average length of stay on French soil will be between 20 and 25 days, although, as in Spain, many groups travel to other later pick-up areas and can extend their private 'tour' to between 45 and 50 days .
The French Ministry of Agriculture reported last month a 10% decrease in production compared to 2021. Specifically, the French authorities calculate that production will be around 44.6 million hectoliters, which they attributed both to the waves of heat that affected areas, such as the Rhône valley, as well as the rain and cold suffered in spring.
In this scenario, the thousands of Spaniards who cross the border to pick grapes in France are repeaters, since almost 90% have taken part in previous campaigns and their profile is highly valued among French businessmen. According to CC.OO, these are workers from the agricultural sector who are also employed in agricultural campaigns in Spain during the rest of the year, such as those for asparagus and stone fruit. They are usually organized in gangs with family ties or by ties of friendship and relatives. The vast majority travel collectively and only a minority use their private vehicles.
"France is a model of labor migration flow to follow in our country," they say from this union. Specifically, contracting for the grape harvest in France is direct between the employer and the worker with the participation of the French Employment Office. People who are going to harvest on French soil receive the contract from the employer before starting their harvest work. Vacancies within a crew are usually filled within the same geographical area (relatives, friends, acquaintances from the same locality, etc.).
The lure of France
Why, for thousands of Spaniards, can it be interesting to cross the border and pick grapes on French soil? The answer is multiple. From UGT and CC.OO they point to an obvious reason: the remunerations are higher. In CC.OO. They have made numbers and estimate that the Spanish grape harvesters will obtain an income of between 1,700 and 2,200 euros per person.
It is also very useful for, for example, adding the minimum days required to access agricultural income and the agricultural subsidy, the unemployment benefit for temporary workers of the Special System for Agricultural Workers of the Social Security (SEAS) of Extremadura and Andalusia. Specifically, until December 31 this requirement is lowered to a minimum of 20 days. Apart from the fact that labor rights can be generated in France and access certain aid for contributing at least 18 days a quarter, such as subsidies for unemployed people with dependents under 20 years of age or who receive a remuneration of less than 55% of the French SMI .
From UGT and CC.OO. criticisms of the labor model that prevails in the Spanish countryside are traditional. The unions, each time the situation of seasonal workers in the countryside has been brought up to date by each new Labor Inspection campaign, put on the table the pending renewal of a large part of the 61 existing provincial agreements (21 of them updated). In this sense, they have been accusing businessmen of a lack of will and of rejecting the negotiation of a single national agreement. An extreme repeatedly denied by organizations like Asaja.