Who produced the food that you are eating?

Who produced the food that you are eating? Harsh working conditions for migrant workers in the UK food industry

A blog by Fanny Floremont – researcher from la Confédération Paysanne. This post was initially published on Migrant Voice website and later, on The Landworkers' Alliance website

The food sold in British supermarkets can be labelled either as ‘local’, ‘organic’, or even ‘fair trade’ when it comes from overseas countries, but no label guarantees that workers who produced, processed and packaged it in the UK enjoyed fair and decent working conditions. Consumers are often unaware of the social costs of low food prices.

Natalia and Krzysztof[1] were born in Poland but they now work in a vegetable processing factory in Boston, Lincolnshire. “I am over seven month pregnant, says Natalia, but when I arrive at work, they don’t let me go to the toilet during at least one hour”. Krzysztof carries on: “we have piece rates in the factory but often they don’t tell us how much they pay for each tray. They set the rate once they’ve seen how much we’ve made”. Both agree that managers put unnecessary pressure on workers, shouting to ask them to work quicker and using CCTV to monitor all their comings and goings. And when workers start complaining too loud, like Krzysztof did, they are told: “here is the door, you can always leave”.

Read more: Who produced the food that you are eating?

Climate of fear among migrant workers in UK agriculture

Press Release: The Landworkers’ Alliance

(Posted – 03/10/2014)

New research by ‘la Confédération Paysanne’ and ‘The Landworkers’ Alliance’ has uncovered the negative impact of the British industrial food production system on its workers. Interviews with workers, trade union representatives and support organisations revealed that many migrant workers were too frightened to complain about poor and often unlawful working conditions. They feared being dismissed by their employers or not being offered further work by their agency.

On the other end of the supply chain, consumers are unaware of the hidden costs of low food prices. The intensive and concentrated food system in Britain requires extreme flexibility from workers and puts them in precarious positions. Too often, farmers and food processors who are facing pressure from major retailers to lower prices do so by cutting labour costs. Migrants and agency workers are in the most vulnerable position as they are working in the most uncertain and unstable conditions. The existing institutional safeguards available to them have been undermined by the recent austerity policies and so-called “red-tape reduction” measures.

Read more: Climate of fear among migrant workers in UK...

Greece: Manolada Strawberry Trial, Shame on you!

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Slightly more than one year ago, agricultural workers employed in strawberry fields in Manolada, in Greece, were shot at by foremen when they went to demand their unpaid salaries. These abuses carried out on a large agricultural holding producing strawberries for export revealed the disgraceful situation of migrant seasonal workers within Greek industrial agriculture.

The Patras court, which was tasked with the preliminary proceedings and prosecution of the perpetrators of this crime, has just rendered a dismaying verdict:

Read more: Greece: Manolada Strawberry Trial, Shame on you!

Thai traffic in the service of Israeli colonization

UAWC (Union of agriculture Workers Committees in Palestine) in cooperation with the Confederation Paysanne in France initiated a research paper to document the violations against Thai workers in the Israeli settlements.

b_350_0_16777215_00___images_stories_migration_recompenseforthaiworkersscaled.jpg(Jerusalem, January 2014) The violence and massive strikes of Palestinian workers that took place during the two Intifadas1 paralyzed the Israeli economy, heavily dependent on Palestinian labor, following the closure of the borders between Israel and the West Bank by the occupying army. Employers in sectors such as construction, agriculture and caregiving – despised and known for their gluttony for cheap and exploitable labor – therefore put pressure on the Israeli government to obtain authorization to import non-Jewish hands... and won. Along with the introduction of incentive policies for employment in these sectors towards Israelis, in the agricultural sector since 1995, thousands of Thai workers started to be literally imported by Israel. All of them come from peasant families from the north of the country and left Thailand because the traditional rice cultivation cannot compete with corporate industrial rice culture...

Download the whole article here.

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