UK government policies allow supermarkets to profit from farmworker exploitation

This piece is part of the Exploits series, from Wicked Leeks and Live Frankly, aiming to highlight the systemic poor conditions faced by people working in food and fashion. Find out more here.

The government could help stop abuse of seasonal workers and prevent illegal brokers scamming them for fees to come to the UK.

That’s according to a new report using direct testimonies from seasonal workers on UK farms, and analysis by the New Economics Foundation and the Landworkers’ Alliance, has uncovered how illegal brokers are charging seasonal workers thousands of pounds to come to the UK to work on farms. The workers are then open to exploitative working conditions to pay back the debt, accepting long hours and abusive conditions.

Report co-author and researcher at the Open University Clark McAllister said: “Migrant workers in the agricultural sector face extreme exploitation. With widespread scams and fees plaguing the recruitment process for the Seasonal Worker Visa, many workers arrive in the UK in situations of debt-bondage.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office, which is responsible for the welfare of migrant workers, told Exploits that the government is “clamping down on poor working conditions and exploitation”.

The report, however, clearly highlights how the current system is not working, adding to a growing body of evidence of mistreatment and widespread abuse faced by seasonal workers on farms.

Report co-author Catherine McAndrew said: “The benefits of this exploitation go mainly to the handful of supermarkets which dominate the food system, while farmworkers earn wages that are below thresholds for absolute poverty.”

Click to read the full article on Wicked Leeks

Main image: Anna Shvets | Pexels

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About the author

Nina Pullman

Nina Pullman

Nina is editor of Wicked Leeks and a journalist specialising in food sustainability, supply chains and ethical business. She honed her trade at leading trade magazine Fresh Produce Journal, and has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and The Ecologist. A passionate traveller, she is interested in food as the starting point for discussions about culture, the environment, health, business, politics and beyond. She is on Twitter as @nina_pullman.

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