From file: A migrant worker in the town of Potenza, in the Italian southern Region of Basilicata  | Photo: Archive ANSA / Ufficio stampa Asp Basilicata (Regional health services)
From file: A migrant worker in the town of Potenza, in the Italian southern Region of Basilicata | Photo: Archive ANSA / Ufficio stampa Asp Basilicata (Regional health services)

Institutional authorities in the south of Italy found that 15 out of 450 migrant workers were working illegally. No evidence of the gangmaster system though was uncovered.

In the city of Potenza, in Italy's Basilicata region, the authorities recently carried out checks on 450 migrant workers. They found in the small nearby town of Palazzo San Gervasio where most of the migrant workers lived, that 15 people were working off the books. However, the authorities found no evidence that any of these people were involved in the 'gangmaster' or caporalato system.

The data emerged during an inter-institutional round table set up to fight the caporalato or gangmaster system in Basilicata.

The system has been a scourge of many parts of Italy and normally involves middle men and women, sometimes from the same countries as the migrants they employ, acting as recruiters for farm or business owners. The so-called gang-masters are then paid by the employer for providing migrant workers and often earn in their turn from the workers by charging them for transport to the fields or factories where they work and sometimes inadequate accommodation too.

In many cases, Italian authorities and prosecutors have found that the gangmaster system is also defrauding the Italian state by offering partial contracts to workers for much fewer hours than they are actually working to avoid paying the full contributions expected under Italian law. Many of the workers who work like this illegally are also exploited in terms of working long hours, for pay far below the minimum wage and often in insanitary and dangerous conditions.

Fighting the gangmaster system

In order to fight the gangmaster system, regions like Basilicata have set up 'Social Hubs,' which are supposed to act as reference points and support migrants at risk of being exploited in the fields or factories, as well as to help contrast their social marginalization.

Various hubs and teams are being set up in different towns and areas. The hubs include cultural mediators, psychologists and legal teams. Most recently in Palazzo San Gervasio they offered a training course to 70 workers.

After talking to employers, the teams at the hubs realized that they need to start working together to plan ahead and find out what skill sets are needed from employers in order to make sure workers offer the right sets of skills.

The hubs are being supported by a combination of an Italian program called Su.Pr.Eme., local prefectures, the Italian Labor Inspectorate, trade unions, the UN Migration Agency IOM, and the cooperative consortium Nova. Similar schemes are being worked on in other southern regions including Campania, Puglia, Calabria and Sicily.

 

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