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

EFFAT and ETUI report about migrant farm labourers working in near-slavery


A blood shed is ongoing in Africa, due to wars dictatorships and famine. The hope of building a new life in Europe, too often end up in falling victim to serious forms of labour exploitation, if not in death.

EFFAT’s sectors, in particular tourism and agriculture are the main receivers of the undocumented migrant work force coming from the Mediterranean shores.  The agricultural sector in particular reports worrying cases of exploitation, lack of decent housing, working and living conditions. In Italy alone 400,000 farm workers are exploited by illegal intermediaries (caporali), in Italian fields for an average pay of 2.5 euros an hour. The vast majority of them are migrant workers from Africa, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, India and Pakistan.

Signing up to a “caporale” is often the only means of survival for a migrant worker who is then charged for access to work, transportation, accommodation, food, phone top ups and so on. Living conditions can be dire with workers living in abandoned buildings or slums, lacking basic services. Remuneration is between 22 and 30 euros for a 10-12 hour day - less than half the legal minimum. The power of the caporali derives from the vulnerability and solitude of the farm laborers.

However  last year,  thanks to the concerted action of EFFAT’s Italian affiliates FLAI CGIL, UILA UIL and FAI CISL, the Chamber of Deputies, sent a crucial  institutional response to this plight  approving the so called law  “against” the “caporalato” (law 199/2016 or Ddl Martina-Orlando).

While being highly repressive against this criminal system, the new law  also sets up a framework of inter-institutional coordination, particularly between the Ministry of Labour and that of Agriculture, aimed at designing measures of support concerning living conditions of agricultural workers and innovative recruitment policies.

For the Summer edition of its HesaMag, the European Trade Unions Institute (ETUI)  is shining a light on the phenomenon of Caporalato  investigating this particular form  of  exploitation through direct  stories of African workers. They’re victims of questionable practices of employment working and living conditions bordering on slavery but also initiators of their rebellion.

ETUI HesaMag – Spring Summer Edition 2017 | The African farm labourers’ rebellion


Photo credit: Belga

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.