European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions
Together for decent work and fair pay from farm to fork

Brussels film premiere exposes migrants caught in web of modern-day slavery in Puglia


On 25 November 2013, the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT), together with the Puglia Region, and FLAI-CGIL (the Italian National Federation for Agricultural Workers), presented the Brussels premiere of the acclaimed and provocative film “Schiavi – Le rotte di nuove forme di sfruttamento” (Slaves – Routes to new forms of exploitation).

The new film by Stefano Mencherini, an independent journalist, author and director of RAI (Italian public radio and television), denounces the last decade of immigration policies in Italy, as well as the gross misuse of public funds and trampling of human and civil rights that has led to the entrapment of thousands of immigrants in modern-day slavery.

Illegally recruited by gang masters to the agricultural fields of Puglia, these mainly African or Eastern European ‘slaves’ are pushed to the limits of their resistance, typically subjected to excessive working hours and life-threatening safety conditions, denied social security, and housed in inhuman conditions.

“A dog was worth more than a black,” says one interviewee in the film of his own experience.

“The gangmasters control every aspect of the lives of these workers,” said Yvan Sagnet, coordinator for migrants of FLAI-CGIL. Yvan Sagnet has become a well-known advocate for migrant workers in Italy after leading a revolt against the gangmasters at the Boncuri Farm of Nardò while undertaking exploitative farm work to raise funds for his university tuition fees.

The film, together with further presentations by its filmmaker, as well as by Luigi Rotella, National Secretary of FLAI-CGIL, Giuseppe Deleonardis, Secretary General of FLAI-CGIL Puglia, Arnd Spahn, EFFAT Political Secretary for Agriculture, and Paolo Casalino, Director of the Puglia Region in Brussels, aim to raise awareness at European level and strengthen legislation to support the work already underway in Puglia to protect migrant agricultural workers from exploitation and harm

Although the abuse of migrant workers is rife throughout the country, the Puglia region has created the only law in the country to fight against illegal work. The region is also working to create more housing and frontline employment services for migrant workers.

“We want to promote clean and regulated labour in respect of human rights,” said Paolo Casalino.

“I hope we can initiate a European path”.

The recent agreement on the seasonal workers directive by the European Parliament and Council is a clear acknowledgment that third-country nationals coming to the EU for periods of employment are more vulnerable than national workers and frequently exposed to discrimination and abuse.

“The race-to-the-bottom by exploitative employers making use of cheap foreign workers is not only morally reprehensible, but constitutes ‘social dumping’ and undermines the working conditions and social rights of European workers,” said Harald Wiedenhofer, EFFAT General Secretary.

Media contact: Dominique Mitchell +32 490 56 94 05 or

EFFAT is the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions. As a European Trade Union Federation representing 120 national trade unions from 35 European countries, EFFAT defends the interests of more than 22 million workers towards the European Institutions, European employers’ associations and transnational companies. EFFAT is a member of the ETUC and the European regional organisation of the IUF.