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French wineries may face higher costs for harvest workers

French wineries may come under added financial pressure as the government considers imposing social charges on wages paid to harvest workers with short-term contracts.

Part-time harvest workers are crucial to France’s wine industry. Across agriculture in general, around 300,000 temporary harvest contracts are signed each year, representing around two-thirds of the country’s harvest workers.

Since 2001, wineries have been able to employ workers on seasonal contracts for up to two months without paying the onerous social charges that are normally levied at employees and employers in France for basic health and pension.

But, France’s parliament is set to debate bringing in social charges for harvest workers from 2015. Supporters of the policy argue it could save the French government around €40m annually.

If the law is changed, wineries will be forced to use classic contracts given to around 800,000 agricultural workers where social charges are payable.

‘It would be a victory for the producers of harvest machines,’ French wine expert and writer Nicolas de Rouyn told Decanter.com, ‘and would mean that regions such as Champagne (which are entirely hand harvested) would need to rewrite their winemaking charter.’

Thierry Pierrot, chef de culture at Krug, also condemned the plan. He said it would punish workers most strongly, who would take home less money for their efforts.

A previous plan to change the law failed to gain parliamentary backing in 2012.

Written by Jane Anson

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