Murcia pickers

Spanish producer associations are calling for better protection for their workers as the coronavirus crisis tightens its grip on the country.

On Monday, Murcian producer-exporter association Proexport and the CCOO and UGT unions issued a statement demanding a series of measures including the provision of more personal protective equipment and rapid detection tests.

“We have seen how [the agricultural sector] has responded with great efficiency...since the coronavirus epidemic began,” the statement reads. “Our people cannot remain confined at home and must go to work to guarantee the food supply to the population.

“We want to make clear that our common objective is to protect the health of the people who work in our sectors.”

The statement said employers had already put in place extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of the infection and protect staff, including distancing, hygiene and disinfection, temperature taking, setting up shifts and reducing the number of occupants in vehicles transporting people to work.

“We call on the national and regional governments to redouble efforts to procure for our companies and staff the necessary means of protection to minimise the risk of contagion.

“Since people who carry out their work in the field, warehouses and throughout the agri-food production chain must continue working for a common good, they will also need the same personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, hydroalcoholic gels, disinfectants, etc, that other groups and the Government should be obliged to provide them.”

The group is also calling for the provision of rapid detection Covid-19 tests for workers showing symptoms of infection to avoid the virus spreading to other workers.

“We do not know what will happen, but from the agrarian sector of the Region of Murcia we want to point out that, whatever happens, farmers, businessmen, male and female workers in this productive sector will continue to be at the service of Murcian, Spanish and European society in order to provide healthy food at all times,” the statement said.

“We only demand that our claims regarding occupational health and safety be heard and addressed.”

The associations went on to praise their members, expressing their “deep pride and admiration” for their continued efforts amid the ongoing crisis.

“We do everything in our power to protect them at all times, because they are taking risks so that we can all feed ourselves in the coming weeks and months. They, too, are heroes who deserve the recognition and encouragement of society.”