Underpaid work – From the Langhe to Puglia, the stories of exploited farm laborers. “I asked for the salary stipulated in the contract: they sent me away”. “Women get 5 euros less than men”

Underpaid work – From the Langhe to Puglia, the stories of exploited farm laborers. “I asked for the salary stipulated in the contract: they sent me away”. “Women get 5 euros less than men”
Underpaid work – From the Langhe to Puglia, the stories of exploited farm laborers. “I asked for the salary stipulated in the contract: they sent me away”. “Women get 5 euros less than men”

“You you don’t deserve that pay, you don’t work hard enough. But do you know how much you’re going to cost me? “. This is the answer that Gabriele, a 24-year-old university student, heard from his employer when he asked to be paid according to the agreements and according to the provisions of the national collective bargaining agreement for agricultural and horticultural workers. In September he left Lazio to participate in the harvest of the grapes Moscato d’Asti in Langhe, where wine is a business with hundreds of millions of revenues. The experience lasted a few weeks: “When I asked to be paid as per the contract they sent me away ”. From north to south, farms continue to swear that there is a shortage of laborers to harvestgrape, the olive, i pistachios of Bronte, i artichokes. The accusations are always the same: “The fault of the citizenship income”, “the young people prefer to spend the day at the bar”. But the testimonies gathered by Ilfattoquotidiano.it for the campaign No to underpaid work tell another story: black payments, contracts not respected, extraordinary unpaid and not even properly reported, workers women paid less than men, abuses and caporalato.

“The agreed wage was 6.5 euros per hour: I got 4.6” – Gabriele had found his place in the Langhe through an announcement on the portal launched by Coldiretti in April 2020 to make up for the shortage of foreign labor in the agricultural sector, due to the closure of the borders for Covid. “We worked from 7 in the morning to 12 and from 14 to 19”, he says. “By telephone we had agreed an hourly wage of 6 euros and 50 cents per hour. I work the first week and kindly ask to be paid in good standing, as per the signed contract, at the end of the work. At this request of mine, the employer removed me from the company and the harvesting activity and sent me back home because, according to him, my request to be paid according to the contract was out of place. After a few weeks I was paid the 55 hours of work which I actually did, but the hourly wage was significantly lower as agreed. For 55 hours of work I received € 253.85 net in paychecks for an average of 4.61 euros per hour. The rhetoric of “nobody wants to work” and “everyone stays at home with the citizenship income” leaves the time it finds if these are the conditions they offer to those who are willing to respond to the televised appeals on the lack of labor in agriculture “.

The appeals on the lack of manpower – The appeals on the lack of workers in the agricultural sector have been going on for more than a year now. Especially since the end of the first lockdown, at the end of April 2020, thanks to the closure of the borders and the impossibility for laborers from Eastern Europe traditionally employed in harvesting to reach the Italian countryside, cooperatives and farms have begun to sound alarms on the estate of the sector. “We risk that as early as the next few weeks the product does not arrive on the shelves”, Proclaimed the operators of the sector. Trade associations, such as the Cia e Alliance of agri-food cooperatives, clamored for the reintroduction of the voucher and the involvement of citizenship income earners to make up for this deficiency. And the appeals were not limited to that exceptional situation. Even today it is enough to open the newspapers or do a Google search to find the same appeals and the same accusations.

“The pay does not comply with the law” – But why are there no willing workers in the agricultural sector? What are the conditions proposed to workers who propose to go to work in the fields, to collect fruit and vegetables or to participate in the grape harvest? Not exactly exciting. Nor, in many cases, respectful of regulations that regulate this sector. Despite a contract duly signed and communicated to the bodies in charge, the wages received often do not reflect the agreed agreements. “The pay is not in accordance with the law, they never give us what we should be entitled to,” says Giovanna. “That would be enough controls tighter in all companies by the labor inspectorate. Monthly, not once a year. So the workers would come out in nero, the underpaid, threatened, offended, humiliated laborers ”, comments Maria.

“Women 40 euros a day, men 45. And unpaid overtime” – Lorella is 42 years old, she is an Apulian farm worker who has been working in this sector since 2013: “I could write a book about the humiliations I have suffered and have seen. In the company where I work, the wages are not regular women receive 40 euros per day while men 45 euros. For them we women are worth 5 euros less even if we do the same job. We work 8 hours a day plus a half hour break that we have to make up for, if we do an extra half hour or an hour of work, we are never paid“. Free overtime, then. And that’s not all: “They show up on the paycheck 67,50 euro for each day of work, but this only to make ends meet and show the compensation that should be correctly paid, in reality they calculate fewer days than those actually carried out and therefore we receive much less than what we would be entitled to for the days worked. Over a month of 30 working days, for example, they result in only 15, so that it appears that what they give us is the correct sum. Then, from 40 euros a day I have to remove 10 euros of diesel because I use my personal car to reach my workplace every day, traveling 61 kilometers a day. Reimbursement fuel? Never seen a penny “.

Coldiretti: “It is the employer who manages the relationship with the worker” – Contacted by ilfattoquotidiano.it, the Head of Work of Coldiretti, Romano Magrini, comments the testimonies of the laborers: “The Coldiretti portal serves to match demand with supply, in this it has performed its function perfectly, then it is the employer who decides how to manage the relationship with the independent worker “. Is everything regular then? “We as an association have never received reports of this kind from workers. I do not exclude that these situations may exist but, I repeat, it is the entrepreneur who manages the employment relationship on a daily basis. After all, the proposed contracts, as told, were regular on paper, only that it was then the employer who paid illegitimately by not respecting the agreements. If this were to be confirmed, these entrepreneurs are not complying with the law and it absolutely goes condemned this behavior. Compliance with collective agreements is a prerequisite to join our organization, compliance with the law is essential. We are the association that wanted the law to contrast the corporal precisely to avoid that there may be situations of exploitation of any kind, even simply a lower wage than established. For our part, there continues to be an urgent invitation to respect the rules, just as we fight to see the right price recognized for the products, in the same way we want the worker to be recognized the right remuneration ”.

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