Screenshot from a police video detailing a major operation against gangmasters in Puglia | PHOTO: ANSA/Polizia di Stato
Screenshot from a police video detailing a major operation against gangmasters in Puglia | PHOTO: ANSA/Polizia di Stato

A union for farmworkers FLAI-CGIL has opened an office in the southern Italian city of Taranto to support foreign workers and help them report cases of exploitation, in order to fight the gangmaster system.

The Taranto chapter of the union for Italian farmworkers FLAI-CGIL has opened an office to help foreigners who work in agriculture and fishing report cases of exploitation and irregularity. The office in the southern region of Puglia has the support of attorney Marco Del Vecchio, an immigration rights expert specialized in Mediterranean legislation and culture.

Illegal labor is an underestimated phenomenon

"The phenomenon of unregulated and semi-regulated work in agriculture is still underestimated," the local leader of FLAI, Lucia La Penna, said in a statement on June 30. Penna called for action to curb the phenomenon, in particular to "monitor more closely what is happening in the countryside at the expense of Italian and foreign farmworkers who deserve to compete equally, to have the same rights and identical rules of engagement and to form a united front [against exploitation]."

Penna stressed in the statement that "despite the important sign given by the Puglia region, which promised additional funding worth €200,000 to support the transportation of farmworkers; we ask for new momentum for the action plan for the protection of agricultural development and the fight against the gangmaster system" which was originally launched at the prefecture back in 2018.

'No census on African workers'

The new agency promised to "strive to highlight something that is still unclear." It explained that although they have vague measures of the numbers of workers from eastern Europe there has been no precise estimate or census taken on the numbers of workers coming from Africa working in the fields of southern Italy. The agency admitted that even the numbers it does have are "underestimated."

"They [the workers coming from Africa] are the ones that the security decrees have rendered even more invisible," Penna concluded, referring to the security and migrantion decrees introduced by former interior minister Matteo Salvini.

 

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