A network exploiting 200 irregular farmhands was uncovered in Riva del Garda in northern Italy by finance police in collaboration with INPS social security and pensions agency | PHOTO: ANSA/GUARDIA DI FINANZA
A network exploiting 200 irregular farmhands was uncovered in Riva del Garda in northern Italy by finance police in collaboration with INPS social security and pensions agency | PHOTO: ANSA/GUARDIA DI FINANZA

An estimated 180,000 Italian and migrant workers risk being exploited by gangmasters in the agricultural sector across Italy, according to the fifth report on 'Agromafie e caporalato'' (agricultural mafias and the gangmaster system) which focuses on exploitation in the agribusiness in the Italy over the past two years. The report was presented by the Flai Cgil union on October 17.

An estimated 180,000 ''vulnerable'' workers -- Italians and migrants -- risk being exploited by gangmasters not only in southern Italy but across the whole country, according to the fifth report on the mafia and gangmaster system in agriculture drafted by the Observatory Placido Rizzotto of the Flai CGIL union.

The report was presented on October 17 in Rome.

The study focuses on workers' exploitation in the agricultural sector between October 2018 and February 2020.

''The phenomena of exploitation, illegal labor and the gangmaster system are not exclusively reported in the south anymore'', said the secretary general of the union, Giovanni Mininni, during the presentation.

Gangmaster system not only in the south

The report focuses on different aspects of the phenomenon, providing an insight into the contradictions of the latest legislation including law 199/2016 against the gangmaster system.

In order to understand the effectiveness of the legislation, 260 criminal proceedings across all sectors were examined for the study.

The research found that a reported 143 cases were not reported in southern Italy.

Veneto and Lombardy in the north, with the State attorneys' offices of Mantua and Brescia, were the regions with the highest number of proceedings along with the central regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lazio, with prosecutors in Latina in first place, and Tuscany with State attorneys in Prato.

The highest number of criminal filings concerned the agricultural sector with 163 cases.

The report also indicated that €12 would be the minimum salary per hour required for unskilled workers in agriculture. This salary, the study said, could help progressively reduce exploitation which mainly regards unskilled workers employed in the initial phase of production, like harvesting, in which gangmasters play a key role.

Minister announces observatory on agriculture

''The gangmaster system is a mafia and it also exists in the north'', said the minister for agricultural policies, Teresa Bellanova, at the presentation of the report. Bellanova said the battle against gangmasters should concern all economic sectors.

The minister added that a measure to regularize workers in agriculture and domestic workers passed by the government earlier this year should be extended to more sectors "because there is a lot of illegal work and many gangmasters also in construction, the restaurant business and logistics."

And as a measure to fight the gangmaster system the minister announced the creation of a 'Calendario delle colture', an observatory on agricultural needs with the allocation of €150,000 in funding for the 2020-2022 period by the ministry for agricultural policy.

The secretary general of labor union CGIL, Maurizio Landini, said during the presentation that public institutions should be involved in placing migrant workers, functioning as an employment agency, with the necessary funding. "In order to fight the mafia, one of the key elements is to give back credibility to public institutions," he said.

Landini went on to say that the regularization of migrant workers through temporary permits approved with a decree that came into force in June "is an important step but needs to be expended to all activities and to all people."

A reported 220,000 people have so far applied to get temporary papers in the sectors of agriculture and domestic work under the legislation.

The regularization of workers is ''the first battle to prevent people from being exploited'' by making ''all people visible and enabling them to fight for their rights," the union leader concluded.


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