A demonstration against the gangmaster system in Caserta, southern Italy | Photo: ANSA
A demonstration against the gangmaster system in Caserta, southern Italy | Photo: ANSA

Carabinieri military police in 2019 carried out a total of 263 investigations against the gangmaster system in Italy, Labor Minister Nunzia Catalfo said this week. The Italian government is expected to approve a three-year plan to fight the phenomenon by the end of January.

In 2019 alone, Italy's Carabinieri police carried out 263 investigations to fight the gangmaster system, Italy's Labor Minister Nunzia Catalfo said on January 14 during a congress. Gangmasters are criminal recruiters who control and exploit workers.

The investigations enabled ''thousands of workers to escape exploitation and the systematic violation of the most basic economic, social and cultural rights guaranteed by the State," Catalfo said.
The minister said it was the government's role to defeat the phenomenon. "We know it is an objective that some consider as perhaps too ambitious, but today like never before we must do everything in our power to succeed."

Catalfo confirmed that a three-year plan to fight the gangmaster system would be approved by the end of January together with a "portfolio of projects of the ministry of labor and social policies to support the project." According to Catalfo, the total investment will be €85 million.

Agricultural sector awaits plan

Italian farmers' confederation CIA is waiting for details of the plan, the group's president Dino Scanavino said. "We will examine it carefully," said Scanavino, adding that prevention and "information on the migrants who are preparing to work in agriculture" is what's needed "first and foremost."

On January 11, the Italian minister for agriculture Teresa Bellanova announced that an inter-ministerial plan will be presented in January to fight labor exploitation in the agriculture sector. Bellanova said it would include a platform allowing business owners to find the workers with the desired qualifications.

The president of the Coldiretti farmers' association, Ettore Pradini, called the plan a step "in the right direction." "Prevention is the first step against the system before measures to fight it including fines or the seizure of an agricultural company," Pradini said.

Prandini added that the issue should be discussed at a European level ''because of the unfair competition from eastern countries where the cost of labor can be compared today to our gangmaster system."

Call for faster regulation

According to Maurizio Gardini, the president of the federation of cooperatives - Confcooperative -, it is necessary to match demand and offer as well as speed up the regulation of immigrant workers, especially during periods of high demand.

Gardini also called for tighter controls and for more efficient coordination to help firms find workers, for when gangmasters offer work, "there is also demand from some companies," he noted.

Massimiliano Giansanti, the president of the general confederation of Italian agriculture - Confagricoltura -, said the "real issue" was the difficulty in finding qualified workers in the agriculture sector. Giansanti also noted that current legislation wouldn't use prevention enough to fight the gangmaster system.

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