Key jobs on the frontlines of Europe’s battle against COVID-19 rely on mobile workers from within the EU and outside the bloc — doctors, nurses, carers, delivery workers, truckers and more.

The vulnerability of such labourers to health risks and exploitation is the subject of this investigation by six journalists from three countries. Though the focus is primarily on Romanian, Moldovan and Macedonian workers abroad, the story is relevant to the whole of Europe.

“We are an international team of journalists who’ve been researching this phenomenon for four months, talking to staff at the frontline, employers, union reps, doctors, and politicians across Europe, while collecting data on infections in industries, businesses and farms,” the team says on Mobile Workers at the Pandemic Frontline, a standalone website for the project.

“Our data, narrative and investigative journalism project interrogates this phenomenon further, by mapping the outbreaks across industries in Europe, showing how mobile workers have bypassed quarantine laws in Italy, and how workers from Romania and Moldova fight for their rights to a fair wage when an outbreak hits the factory where they work in the UK.”

The team demonstrated that those most at risk from dangerous, unsanitary and poorly paid jobs in western Europe tend to be transient workers from abroad. They also showed that such labourers are often unaware of their precarious situation.

The project highlights their plight through a series of articles combining data analysis with human interests stories. It also shows how the pandemic may act as a catalyst for future change, underlining labour injustices and bolstering calls for better rights.

Along with stories in publications including Romania’s Decât o Revistă magazine and Italy’s L’Espresso newspaper, Mobile Workers at the Pandemic Frontline serves as a dashboard to show the extent of COVID-19 infections in firms employing mobile workers, with a focus on the meat sector.

Published stories