Union and supermarkets together activist – FNV and supermarket umbrella organization CBL tackle exploitation in Italian tomato industry

Al in 2006 the first reports of serious human rights violations emerged. illegally operating human recruiters, corporals, migrants from low-wage countries who have ended up on the margins of Italian society gather to harvest the harvest in twelve-hour working weeks and against payment of half a local wage.

Italy has 370,000 workers from 155 countries who are legally employed in agriculture. They fill 27% of the total number of official jobs. In addition, there is a large, but unknown to its precise size, group of seasonal workers who are underpaid, work long hours and are poorly housed. Their low social status puts them as slaves wholly under the control of the caporali who can make and break their lives. The Pew Research Center darling in 2019 it involves 500,000 to 700,000 modern slaves; they are people who arrive in boats from North Africa on the nearby southern coasts of Italy as refugees in search of a better life. Many fail to continue their journey and remain in the country as invisibly as possible, but are easy prey for the recruiters. Caritas estimated their number at 700,000 in 2011, a decade before the influx of boat refugees that has probably grown since then.

The tomato pickers working in the twilight of Italian society make it possible that 70 gram cans of tomato paste can be bought for a price of barely more than 2 dimes.

The businessman takes over the role of pastor of activist groups and chases the government to take its responsibilities

Ten years ago Marc Jansen, director of supermarket umbrella organization CBL, said that his supporters could not be held responsible for the use of illegally exploited workers on plantations in southern Europe. Enforcing laws and ensuring good working conditions are government duties. A factually correct position, we wrote at the time. Africans cross the Mediterranean and here they fall into the hands of recruiters who receive them at the very bottom of the social ladder with poorly paid and illegal seasonal work.

Times change
But times change. A voluminous report by the Dutch company Impact Buying, commissioned by the CBL and with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the FNLI umbrella organization of the Dutch food producers, listed the current situation of people’s rights in the Italian tomato industry. Italy produces about five times as many tomatoes for industrial processing as Greece, France and Portugal and about 1.5 to 2 times as much as Spain.

The report recommends that CBL and FNLI include requirements in the standards they use for the canned, frozen and dried tomato products they purchase. The share of total Dutch purchases is only 112,823 tons of the total Italian production of 2,341,688 tons of processed tomatoes (4.8%). Impact Buying, the CBL and the trade union FNV expect that the volume will be large enough to allow the industry to catch up to continue supplying the Netherlands if buyers from our country set requirements for the working conditions and remuneration of the pickers. That is why the trade union FNV and the CBL are going to work together to improve the lot of these people through standards. In addition to action by the commercial chain itself, according to the FNV and the CBL, action at the level of the European Commission is also necessary. That is why they would like to discuss the role of the Netherlands as a driving force in the short term with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The businessman takes over the role of pastor of activist groups and chases the government to take its responsibilities.

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Union and supermarkets together activist – FNV and supermarket umbrella organization CBL tackle exploitation in Italian tomato industry

The Inside News Hyderabad