A still image from a video shows migrant farm workers in a agricultural field in Puglia.  PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA/STATE POLICE
A still image from a video shows migrant farm workers in a agricultural field in Puglia. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA/STATE POLICE

A total of 430,000 farm workers are exposed to exploitation by gang masters, according to a recent report published by the observatory Rizzotto. In addition, 132,000 of them are socially vulnerable. Up to 39 percent of farm workers are hired illegally, according to the report.

A total of 430,000 farm workers risk being illegally exploited by gang masters, according to a recent report published by the Italian observatory Rizzotto. In addition, 132,000 of them are socially vulnerable and risk losing their jobs. Up to 39 percent of farm workers are hired illegally, the report said.


The gang-master business has been estimated to be worth 4.8 million euros contributing to a tax evasion of around 1.8 billion, according to the report 'Agromafie e Caporalato' (mafia in the agriculture sector and the gang master system), which was drafted for the fourth consecutive year by the observatory Placido Rizzotto FLAI CGIL. 

The observatory of the agroindustry chapter of labor union CGIL is named after Placido Rizzotto, who was abducted and killed by the Mafia in 1948. Since 2015, the observatory has been carrying out an in-depth analysis of illegal work in Italian farms based on data provided by national statistics bureau Istat, by CREA, the council for research in agriculture, top administrative court Corte dei Conti, the anti-mafia parliamentary commission and interviews. 

30% of farmers work less than 50 days a year 

The study presented this year said that over 300,000 farm workers, or almost 30 percent of the total, work less than 50 days a year. Many are hired illegally. Migrants are a fundamental resource among the estimated one million farm workers. 

According to data presented by Italian national social welfare institute INPS, 286,940 in 2017 were registered with a regular contract, almost 28 percent of the total, including 151,706 EU citizens (53 percent) and 135,234 from non-EU countries (47 percent). 

38.7% of migrant workers underpaid, 16.5% irregularly employed 

According to CREA, a total of 405,000 foreigners are employed in agriculture, both legally and illegally, including 16.5 percent who have an informal agreement (67,000 people) and 38.7 percent who are underpaid (157,000). These workers are exposed to serious exploitation, the study said. They have no rights or guarantees provided for by national contracts and the law; they are paid on average between 20 and 30 euros a day; they get paid on a piece-rate basis of 3 or 4 euros per 375-kilo box. 

Workers forced to pay for transport, water, food 

They earn on average 50 percent less than what is owed to them under the national contract. Workers exploited by gang masters also have to pay for transport according to the distance they are traveling (on average five euros) and for food and drink (about 1.5 euros for water and three for a sandwich. They work on average eight to 12 hours a day. 

Women under gang-masters earn 20 percent less than their male colleagues. Some migrant farm workers can make as little as one euro an hour, the report noted. A total of 30,000 companies use gang-masters to hire laborers, according to the report, or about 25 percent of the total number of firms with employees.
 

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