094 Responsible Agriculture: Fighting Labor Exploitation in the Agricultural Sector

Organizers

  • UK, British Embassy Rome
  • International Organisation for Migration

Abstract

Exploitative employment is a longstanding issue worldwide, particularly in the agriculture sector. In 2016, 40.3 million people were estimated to be victims of modern slavery. Of these, 25 million were victims of forced labour with 16 million of them working in the private sector. The recent economic downturn and influx of migrants led to a rapid expansion of illegal employment in Europe. There is growing momentum on this issue in a number of governments, including Italy, Thailand and the UK. It is therefore important to build on this to: promote private businesses' social responsibility and an ethical approach to supply chains and labourers; support government and civil society initiatives aimed at tackling different forms of labour exploitation both through legislation and concrete actions; raise awareness of this phenomenon among citizens worldwide. Our event looks at sharing best practices between Italy, Thailand, and the UK, presenting these countries' main legal tools and actions undertaken so far to fight labour exploitation and providing a platform for exchange amongst CFS members to further steps that could be adopted.

Key speakers/presenters

  • HE Terri Sarch, UK Ambassador, Permanent Representative, FAO (Welcome Remarks; Moderator);
  • Federico Soda, IOM Director for the Mediterranean;
  • Darryl Dixon, Director of Strategy, Gangmasters Labour and Abuse Authority
  • Prefect Massimo Mariani, Prefect of the city of Foggia (Apulia, Southern Italy)
  • Prefect Iolanda Rolli, Former Special Commissioner against Labour Exploitation at the Interior Ministry and current Prefect of the city of Macerata (Central Italy)
  • Prefect Massimo Mariani, Prefect of the city of Foggia (Apulia, Southern Italy)

Main themes/issues discussed

Our event gave an overview of the complexity and multidimensional characteristic of labour exploitation worldwide and highlighted what IOM and both the UK and Italy are doing to fight this phenomenon.

IOM Focus on Fighting Labour Exploitation in Agriculture
The agriculture sector currently ranks fourth, behind fishing, construction and manufacturing, with 2 million people affected worldwide. Migrants represent a vulnerable group worldwide, frequently engaged in illegal work. They are also a significant component of the Italian agricultural labour force and are mostly employed illegally and frequently exploited and obliged to live in ghettos and informal settlements, or ghettos, in extremely degrading and unhygienic conditions. In this context, IOM (International Organisation for Migration) adresses labour exploitation by offering policy and technical advice to national governments; supporting the development of policies, legislation and administrative structures that promote efficient, effective and transparent labour migration flows; assisting  governments to promote safe labour migration practices for their nationals; and promoting the integration of labour migrants in their new workplace and society.

UK GLAA: a Best Practice
Tackling labour exploitation with specific focus on the agricultural sector is a top priority for the UK. The UK Gangmasters Labour and Abuse Authority (GLAA) was set up in 2014 to address and prevent labour exploitation in different professional sectors including agriculture. GLAA licensing scheme regulates businesses providing workers to the fresh produce supply chain and horticulture industry, to make sure they meet the employment standards required by law. UK’s focus on labour exploitation is not just domestic given that external supply chains whose products are then sold within the UK might also be tainted. A stronger government and law enforcement collaboration worldwide to tackle the multidimensional feature of this phenomenon is essential.

How Italy is Tackling Labour Exploitation in Agriculture
Italy has been active in tackling labour exploitation and in 2016 codified and criminalised this practice. A pilot project is now being carried out in the Southern region of Apulia with the financial support of the European Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. The aim is to build reception villages for temporary seasonal workers providing accommodation, hygienic services, means of transport and legal and health assistance.

Summary of key points

Exploitative employment is a longstanding issue worldwide, particularly in the agriculture sector. The recent economic downturn and influx of migrants led to a rapid expansion of illegal employment in Europe. There is growing momentum on this issue in a number of governments, including Italy and the UK. In this context IOM is a key partner for governments to promote private businesses' social responsibility and an ethical approach to supply chains and labourers; support government and civil society initiatives aimed at tackling different forms of labour exploitation both through legislation and concrete actions; raise awareness of this phenomenon among citizens worldwide. Both Italy and the UK are working closely with IOM to fight this phenomenon.

Key take away messages

It is important to recognize that labour exploitation is a worldwide widespread phenomenon and one to tackle and prevent.

Governments should recognize existing exploitative practices and identify legislative and operational tools to prevent and fight this phenomenon.

IOM is a key partner to work with to tackle labour exploitation.

UK is at the forefront in fighting labour exploitation. The role and responsibilities of the UK Gangmasters Labour and Abuse Authority, as well as legislation criminalizing modern slavery, offer a good model to tackle labour exploitation.

Labour exploitation is a widespread phenomenon in Italy especially following the significant increase of migrants’ flows from Africa. Italian authorities have been recently focusing on tackling this phenomenon and are making strong efforts also on the prevent side.

CFS - Side Event 094 - Responsible Agriculture: Fighting Labour Exploitation in the Agricultural Sector