Inside the Grafica Veneta warehouse | Source: Grafica Veneta Facebook page via ANSA
Inside the Grafica Veneta warehouse | Source: Grafica Veneta Facebook page via ANSA

On 26 July, Italian authorities carried out an operation against the illegal hiring of foreign workers at Grafica Veneta, a leading company in the printing of books and publications in Italy. Nine Pakistani citizens were arrested on charges of exploitation of fellow workers, along with two managers of the company.

In the early hours of July 26, Italian police found scenes from "ordinary" gangmastering at the prestigious publishing company Grafica Veneta in Trebaseleghe (Padua), which is famous for the Italian publishing of the best-selling Harry Potter series as well as Barack Obama's biography.

According to investigators, foreign workers were legally hired there through a temp agency, but subjected to suffocating shifts without company protections. Employees were also allegedly harassed by the temp agency, to which they had to pay a large part of their salary.

When the employees dared to react, they were allegedly kidnapped, beaten and tied up.

Orders to pre-trial detention in jail were served on nine Pakistani citizens who are accused of injuries, robbery, kidnapping, extortion and labour exploitation. Two senior executives with Grafica Veneta are under house arrest for labour exploitation.

According to the Padua prosecutor's office, the two senior executives were aware of the illegal situation and the violent methods used to subjugate and intimidate workers, and allegedly tried to evade safety inspections.

Investigation began in 2020

The investigation started on May 25, 2020, after a Pakistani worker was found along a roadside with his hands tied behind his back, while other Pakistanis who worked with him ended up in hospital in Padua.

All of them worked at Grafica Veneta and were employees of B.M. Services in Lavis (Trento), which specializes in the packaging and finishing of products for the publishing industry. It is owned by two Pakistanis, a father and son, who hold Italian citizenship.

The Carabinieri found that the workers were hired with regular employment contracts but worked up to 12 hours a day without breaks, holidays, or other protection.

They were forced to use their salaries to pay their rent in the organization's houses, where they lived with up to 20 others per apartment. Some had turned to a union, but the company found out and punished them.

Grafica Veneta president says 'in the dark about all of it'

Grafica Veneta President, Fabio Franceschi, issued a statement in which he expressed "solidarity with the collaborators mentioned in this story and I highlight full appreciation and complete support for them."

Franceschi said Grafica Veneta has numerous contracts of this type in other companies in the north and his company "was completely in the dark about what would seem to emerge from the investigation, and moreover the subject of contesting its officials regards only and exclusively an alleged obstacle to the investigation, an obstacle that has never been posed by the company, which instead intends to collaborate with the police and the judiciary for the restoration of legality first and foremost, and therefore of the truth."

 

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