Mobile Workers at the Pandemic Frontline

Key jobs at the frontline of the battle against the COVID-19 virus across Europe are dependent on mobile workers from within the EU, and also from outside the bloc.

These include seasonal workers who move between states to pick fruit and vegetables, agency staff who slaughter animals in abattoirs, and prepare cuts of meat for supermarkets, as well as doctors, nurses and care-workers, delivery workers and truckers. 

These are the jobs which employees cannot undertake in their pyjamas on their bed, typing on a laptop, and chatting through Zoom.

Despite the risks of contracting a fatal virus, these key workers have ensured that the citizens of Europe, have access to food, medicine, and healthcare during a lockdown.

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.

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 the factory where they work in the UK.

Outbreak map

This dashboard collects the outbreaks of COVID-19 at firms and businesses, particularly in the industrial sector in Europe, in 2020. This shows which sectors were most sensitive to widespread infections, in which locations, and during which months. 

outbreak stories

This is an ongoing project on the vulnerabilities of mobile workers at a time of Covid-19, supported by a grant from the IJ4EU fund, with stories published in L’Espresso (Italy), Balkan Insight (Serbia) and DoR (Romania).

20 nov 2020 | Euromoves | EN

Detailing the reasons why meat plants and food processing factories are hotbeds of COVID-19 infections

20 nov 2020 | Euromoves | EN

Our dashboard collects all the outbreaks of COVID-19 at firms and businesses, particularly in the industrial sector in Europe, in 2020

29 oct 2020 | Decat o Revista | EN

Romanian union leaders are defending key workers from wage cuts in industries under threat from outbreaks of COVID-19 – in the United Kingdom

29 oct 2020 | Decat o Revista | RO

Sindicaliștii români încearcă să împiedice reducerea masivă a veniturilor muncitorilor din cauza pandemiei. Doar că asta nu se întâmplă la noi, ci în Marea Britanie.

14 oct 2020 | Balkan Insight | EN

Mobile workers in the vineyards of Piedmont, appear to be breaking COVID-19 quarantine rules to pick grapes for some of Italy’s poshest sparkling wines

17 sep 2020 | L’Espresso | IT

Nelle zone pregiate del Barolo e dell’Asti spumante a vendemmiare sono nordmacedoni nonostante il rischio covid 

27 nov 2020 | Decat o Revista | EN

Welcome to the Romanian region that expects its residents to live and work abroad.

27 nov 2020 | Decat o Revista | RO

Câtă putere au oamenii asupra propriilor vieți într-un loc care pare că îi împinge afară?

26 jan 2021 | Decat o Revista | RO

Condițiile în care munceau românii în abatoarele din Germania erau proaste dinainte ca noul coronavirus să infecteze mii de lucrători.
S-ar putea schimba în bine după ce pandemia a
arătat problemele din industria cărnii?


Michael Bird

Michael Bird is a freelance journalist currently staying in Bucharest. His work has appeared in Vice, Decat O Revista, The Independent on Sunday, Politico, EU Observer and Mediapart. Formerly editor of The Black Sea and The Diplomat-Bucharest, he has also reported as a freelancer for BBC Radio and Deutsche Welle.

Andrei Cotrut

Andrei Cotrut is an illustrator, animator and comic books artist, who can be found under the moniker of Krank. He is from the the city of angels – Constanta, Romania.

Cecilia Ferrara

Cecilia Ferrara is a freelance journalist, based in Rome and co-founder of IRPI (Investigative Reporting Project Italy), and an expert in the Balkans, where she lived between 2007 and 2010. She has reported for major newspapers and broadcasters, including La7, Al Jazeera English, Sky Arte, Il Fatto Quotidiano, L’Espresso, France 2,The Guardian, and Mediapart.

Vlad Odobescu

Vlad Odobescu is a Romanian journalist working with DoR, a magazine based in Bucharest. His stories have been published by media outlets such as USA Today,, New Statesman, and Balkan Insight. In 2014-2015 he was a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow at Arizona State University and a Milena Jesenska fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna in 2015.

Lina Verschwele

Lina Verschwele is a journalist based in Berlin who freelances for Deutschlandfunk, Bayerischer Rundfunk and Die Zeit, among others. Her work focuses on migration and social inequalities. Previous team projects took her to Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh. When the number of Covid-19 infections start to drop, she looks forward to meeting her colleagues.

Razvan Zamfira

Razvan Zamfira is a Romanian information designer with a background in architecture and urban studies. In 2018 he founded Studio Interrobang, a Romanian design studio focused primarily on information design and data visualization.