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Italy: new union initiatives to combat widespread abuses of migrant agricultural labour

12 October 2016 Feature
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The IUF-affiliated FLAI-CGIL has launched important new organizing initiatives to combat massive rights abuses in Italian agriculture by breaking the grip of the criminal networks of caporalato (gangmasters) on vulnerable migrant workers. The system of labour agents who provide workers and enforce discipline condemns workers to living in dangerous and degrading  makeshift rural 'ghettoes' and working under hazardous conditions for payment below the minimum set by collective agreements and the law.
AfricanmigrantworkersettlementAfrican migrant worker settlement - Rignano Garganico, Foggia

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Bulgarian migrant workers settlement - Borgo Mezzanone, Foggia

Building on the 2009 Red Gold campaign, FLAI has built ongoing connections to migrant workers and their communities through dedicated outreach and support.

RomanianworkersSicily
Union meeting with Romanian workers in Sicily

Sikhworkersstrike
Union support for general strike by immigrant Sikh workers in the Lazio region - April 2016

FLAI, together with FAI-CISL and UILA-UIL, has signed an experimental tripartite agreement with employers, government ministries and five regional authorities with the goal of driving out gangmasters and ensuring respect for rights. The agreement establishes permanent 'round tables' to attack exploitation by providing decent accommodation, free transport, mobile health services and the distribution of free food and water for migrants. The agreement will support the development of information about rights and legal protection for migrant workers and promote language classes and recreational activities for migrant workers.

Additionally, the unions are proposing to create an 'agricultural work network' jointly with employers, which would use the digital database of the National Institute for Social Protection to facilitate job placement based on respect for negotiated agreements and provide ongoing workplace monitoring. A system of incentives would encourage employers to hire through the network.

The unions have drafted a proposed law providing stiff penalties for gangmasters who recruit and exploit migrant workers, with penalties of up 8 years' imprisonment and financial penalties for each worker recruited. The bill is now before the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Parliament.