Migrant workers, mostly from Africa, were being exploited by a shoe company in Empoli, according to police. They reportedly had to work up to 10 hours a day and were paid as little as 1.28 euros per hour.
Workers were forced to work up to 10 hours a day, six days a week, and often paid less than 400 euros per month. Thus, they were paid roughly 1.28 euros per hour. (For comparison: The party Five Star Movement recently suggested that Italy should have a minimum wage of nine euros per hour.)
The exploitation occured in a shoe company managed by a Chinese couple in Empoli, a town in the central Italian province of Tuscany. The couple has been arrested by the financial police on charges of fraudulent , tax fraud and abusive labor practices.
The preliminary investigative judge also issued an arrest warrant for the couple's son. But he was not found by the police and is thought to be in China now.
Investigators found that the workers had been employed either without a contract or with a part-time contract, but were made to work up to 10 hours a day, holidays included.
Most of the workers were from Africa, including several from Gambia.
The worker's stories
"In the contract, it was written that I would work two hours a day, from 9 AM to 11 AM," one of the workers claimed. "In reality, I worked from 9 AM until 7 PM, from Monday to Saturday."
"Initially, I got 650 euros per month and now 800," another one said. "I worked every day, Sunday included, from 8 AM until 8 PM, with a 15-minute break to be able to eat."
African workers easier to exploit
African migrants, an investigation by the financial police recently found, are preferred as workers because they are seen as easier to exploit since they have few job alternatives, lack the necessary resources to report workplace exploitation and are less aware of union rights than workers from other continents.