Combating abuse of migrant labour in Italy

A help desk has been set up in Sicily to stop the exploitation of agricultural labourers – many of them migrants – and give workers and employers information about their rights and obligations.

Agreement on the centre in Castelvetrano, near Trapani, was signed by union officials from Fai-Cisl, Flai-Cgil and Uila-Uil, together with representatives of the local employment office and the municipality of Campobello di Mazara.

It will help to implement new legislation (Law 199) and a 2016 Protocol entitled ‘Care-Legality-Leave the Ghetto’, combatting the exploitation of workers by caporali (gangmasters). The help desk will supply advice on issues such as documentation, transport services and hospitality for migrant workers.

Unions say the service is "an important milestone - giving agricultural workers concrete tools to fight illegality and exploitation. Today we have demonstrated that it is possible to change the labour market through a transparent and participative model that offers a concrete alternative to illegal gangmasters."

They point out that this example of best practice could be extended to other areas, developing a network for quality agricultural work, in partnership with government and local associations.

This summer, members of the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) secretariat joined the Italian union ‘Labour Brigades’ going out into the fields in southern Italy to inform workers of their rights.

Recent estimates put the number of agricultural labourers in Italy at some half a million, 80% of them migrants and many forced to work illegally. In just one week, a series of police operations identified 235 people and 25 companies involved in illegal activities.

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