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.

‘La Confédération Paysanne’ and ‘The Landworkers’ Alliance’, members of the international farming movement ‘la Via Campesina’ want to:

  • Remind policy makers that workers’ rights violations in agriculture and food production do not only happen in far-flung food production sites but also in European countries such as the UK;
  • Affirm that the industrial and productivist agricultural model means declining living and working conditions for millions of European small-holding farmers, and the denial of rights and worsening working conditions for millions of workers in the agriculture and food sector;
  • Refuse a system where cheap agricultural products are the result of low incomes for small-scale farmers and of low wages and rights violations for workers along the food supply chain;
  • Call for a true social conditionality to be introduced under the cross-compliance framework of the European Common Agricultural Policy;
  • Ask for the principle of food sovereignty to be recognized in international law.

Press contact:

Nicolas Duntze, Farmer Program Coordinator, ‘la Confédération Paysanne’,

Fanny Florémont, Project Officer, ‘la Confédération Paysanne’,

Adam Payne, Grower and Secretary, ‘The Landworkers Alliance’