Food industry probe reveals abuse of foreign workers

Migrant workers used and abused becoming an epidemic world wide. A few story’s on the topic.

Food industry probe reveals abuse of foreign workers

March 12 2010

By Robert Verkaik, Home Affairs Editor

Foreign labourers employed in the meat and poultry industry face physical and racist abuse by British staff, an investigation has found.

Many workers reported being pushed, kicked or having things thrown at them by line managers, said investigators from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Some of the worst abuses were committed against pregnant women who were also forced to continue to undertake work that posed risks to their health, including heavy lifting and extended periods of standing.

The inquiry uncovered frequent breaches of the law and licensing standards in meat processing factories – some of which supply the UK’s biggest supermarkets – and the agencies that supply workers to them. It also highlighted conditions which flout minimum ethical trading standards and basic human rights.

The report said: “Physical and verbal abuse were not uncommon, with a fifth of workers interviewed reporting being pushed, kicked or having things thrown at them by line managers; over a third of workers interviewed said they had experienced, or witnessed verbal abuse, often on a daily basis.”

It added: “Workers also reported being refused permission to take toilet breaks, and subsequently urinating or bleeding on themselves at the production line.”

Responding to the report, union leaders said “Britain’s Supermarkets should hang their heads in shame”.

Unite Deputy General Secretary, Jack Dromey said: “The EHRC report exposes labour practices in the supermarket supply chain that are an affront to human decency – physical and verbal abuse, a lack of health and safety protection, shameful treatment of pregnant women and a culture of fear. The report says, and rightly so, that there are reputable employers but they are undercut by the rogues.”

The inquiry, which was launched in October 2008, examined the employment and recruitment practices in the sector to identify differences in pay and conditions between agency and temporary workers and employees with permanent or directly employed status.

One third of the permanent workforce and over two thirds of agency workers in the industry are migrant workers. At one in six meat processing sites involved in the study, every single agency worker used in the past twelve months was a migrant worker. This is in part due to difficulties in recruiting British workers to what is physically demanding, low paid work. It may also be due to perceptions amongst employers and agencies that British workers are either unable or unwilling to work in the sector.

More than eight out of ten of the 260 workers that gave evidence said that agency workers were treated worse than directly employed workers. Seven out of ten workers said they thought they were treated badly in factories or by agencies because of their race or nationality.

Neil Kinghan, Director General of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “The Commission’s inquiry reveals widespread and significant ill-treatment in the industry. We have heard stories of workers subjected to bullying, violence and being humiliated and degraded by being denied toilet breaks. Some workers feel they have little choice but to put up with these conditions out of economic necessity.

Source

This happens in other countries as well. The UK is not alone on this one.

New Center Report: Foreign Guestworkers Routinely Exploited by U.S. Employers

From 2007

Guestworkers who come to the United States are routinely cheated out of wages; forced to mortgage their futures to obtain low-wage, temporary jobs; held virtually captive by employers who seize their documents; forced to live in squalid conditions; and denied medical benefits for injuries, according to a new report released by the Center today.

The report  Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States comes as Congress is about to begin debating immigration legislation that could greatly expand guestworker programs to cover hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new temporary foreign workers.

“Congress should reform our broken immigration system, but reform should not rely on creating a vast new guestworker program,” said Mary Bauer, director of the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project and author of the report. “The current program is shamefully abusive in practice, and there is almost no enforcement of worker rights.”

The 48-page report, based on interviews with thousands of guestworkers and dozens of legal cases, describes the systematic abuse of workers under what is known as the H-2 system administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program was created in 1943 to allow the sugar cane industry to bring in temporary workers and was revised by Congress in 1986 to include non-agricultural workers.

Employers in 2005 “imported” more than 121,000 temporary H-2 guestworkers  32,000 H-2A workers for agricultural work and 89,000 H-2B workers for jobs in forestry, seafood processing, landscaping, construction and other non-agricultural industries.

“Guestworkers are usually poor people who are lured here by the promise of decent jobs,” Bauer said. “But all too often, their dreams are based on lies, their hopes shattered by the reality of a system that treats them as commodities. They’re the disposable workers of the global economy.”

Hugo Martin Recinos-Recinos, a former guestworker from Guatemala, borrowed thousands of dollars to pay recruiting fees for a forestry job in the United States. “I had to leave the deed to my home,” he said. “When I got to the U.S., I was always underpaid, living in small hotel rooms and working 10-hour days. The debt from my recruitment and travel to the States made the low pay even harder to bear. When I filed a lawsuit about the conditions, my family and I were threatened. The guestworker program was abuse from beginning to end.”

The most fundamental problem with the H-2 system is that employers hold all the cards. They decide which workers can come to the United States and which cannot. They decide whether a worker can stay in this country. They usually decide where and under what conditions workers live and how they travel.

Guestworkers are typically powerless to enforce their rights. “If guestworkers complain about abuses, they face deportation, blacklisting or other retaliation,” the report says.

“Guestworkers don’t enjoy the most basic protections of a free labor market the ability to change jobs if they are cheated or abused by their employer,” Bauer said.

The rights that H-2 workers do have exist mostly on paper. The federal government has failed to protect them from unscrupulous employers, and most cannot obtain private legal assistance to enforce their rights through the courts.

The report concludes that the H-2 guestworker program should not serve as a model for immigration reform, but in fact should be overhauled if allowed to continue. It offers specific recommendations to remedy the worst abuses.

“The mistreatment of temporary foreign workers in America today is one of the major civil rights issues of our time,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “For too long, we’ve reaped the economic benefits of their labor but have ignored the incredible degree of abuse and exploitation they endure.

“Congress now has an opportunity to right this terrible wrong. As part of the reform of our broken immigration system, Congress should eliminate the current H-2 system entirely or commit to making it a fair program with strong worker protections that are vigorously enforced.” Source

Apparently they have been attempting to get things changed.

US firms ‘paid Colombia militias’
Also from 2007

The right-wing paramilitary groups were formed
as private armies in the 1980s

A paramilitary commander has accused US companies which buy Colombia’s bananas of financing illegal right-wing militias that have killed thousands of people in more than a decade. In testimony to investigators, jailed commander Salvatore Mancuso named Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte as having made regular payments to the paramilitaries, according to Jesus Vargas, a lawyer for victims of paramilitary violence who was present at the hearing.The hearing was closed to the press.

Mancuso testified that “each one paid one [US] cent for each box of bananas they exported”, according to Vargas.
‘War taxes’

Mancuso’s lawyer, Hernando Benavides, confirmed his client’s testimony.

Mancuso did not specify why the companies paid the illegal militias but paramilitaries commonly exact “war taxes” from businesses and ranchers in areas where they operate.

Across the country, the paramilitaries countered leftist rebel extortion. They also served as union busters, and killed hundreds of labour rights activists.

A spokesman for California-based Dole Food denied the accusation.

“Recent press accounts implicating Dole with illegal organisations in Colombia is absolutely untrue,” said Marty Ordman.

A Del Monte spinoff, Del Monte Fresh Produce, has a subsidiary in Colombia that buys bananas. It did not immediately return phone calls from the Associated Press.

Chiquita Brands International has previously acknowledged that a subsidiary, Banadex, paid paramilitaries $1.7m over six years.

The Colombian chief federal prosecutor’s office says a Banadex ship was also used to unload 3,000 Kalashnikov rifles and more than 2.5 million bullets in 2001.

It agreed to pay a fine of $25m in a deal with the US justice department.

Chiquita says the payments were made to protect the safety of its workers but Colombia’s chief prosecutor has said companies that made such payments shared the responsibility for paramilitary murders.

Labour and human rights activists say Colombia companies and multinationals routinely paid paramilitaries to act as union busters and kill union leaders.

Mancuso, testifying as part of a peace deal with the government, also accused Colombian beverage and coal companies of paying “taxes” to the paramilitaries.

Wealthy landowners and drug traffickers first created the paramilitaries in the early 1980s to protect them from rebel extortion and kidnapping but the groups have since largely degenerated into murderous gangs.

The paramilitaries, known by their Spanish acronym AUC, were listed as a “foreign terrorists organisation” in 2001 by the US government.

The prosecutor’s office estimates the paramilitaries left at least 10,000 bodies across this war-scarred terrain in mass graves. Source

So if you can’t abuse them in yhour own contry abuse them where they live.

One has to wonder how many other countries do this?

Related

US-COLOMBIA: Activists Target “World of Coca-Cola”

From November 2009

They had eight union leaders murdered. We’ve been augmenting their legal suit,” Friedman said.

“There’s plenty of evidence that shows the plant managers were very cozy with the paramilitaries,” he added.

New report highlights Israeli exploitation of migrant workers

Report condemns treatment of migrant workers in Canada

Rampant exploitation of women’s labour, sexuality

March 10 2010

One hundred years after the world recognised the role of women in society, women are still robbed off their rights.

On the occasion of the 100th year anniversary of International Women’s Day yesterday, Caram Asia calls upon governments in both sending and receiving countries to protect the rights of migrant women who constitute more than half of the migrant population in the world today.

Migrant workers in Slovenia hunger strike for unpaid wages

March 2010

Contractor by the name of Perkovič has not compensated them for the work they have done in the past 15 months.

Italy: migrant workers strike!

Submitted on 9 March 9, 2010

March 1 2010 will go down in history as the date when tens of thousands of the four and a half million immigrant population of Italy threw down the gauntlet to the racist government of Silvio Berlusconi and the ever-widening persecution emanating from the pores of a society deep in crisis, by going on strike. It was a challenge to a society that in the time-honoured capitalist manner is increasingly forced to survive by sowing and maintaining divisions among the majority it exploits, scapegoating its weakest and most vulnerable.

The above are just the tip of the iceburg..

Seems not much has changed over the years.

U.S. Contractor in Iraq, KBR, Accused of SlaveryTell them your giving them a job, ship them off to a war zone, take their passports and force them to work

Another war realated Story about migrant workers

Homeless Nepalese in Baghdad are victims of Human trafficking

Even Call Centers are bad employers in many countries, Seems they don’t like to pay their employees either. August 27, 2008 What has changed not much. They love to exploit workers world wide.

Call centers lawsuits

Call center (BOSS) Burnout stress syndrome

Human Issues in Call Centers – A Report

February 16 2010

Call Centers has given many gifts to People , few of them are: High Stress Level, Number of other Illnesses, Broken Marriages Etc.

How Haiti’s Quarter Million Slaves Will Survive The Quake

Slavery and Human Trafficking Crimes

An estimated 211 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working around the world according to the International Labor Organization.

Trans Fair

Like all great social change movements, Fair Trade is a messy and imperfect project.

A grassroots movement that for some emerged in opposition to global free trade eventually gave rise to an ambitious labeling and certification system that has now grown into a complex global organization. A simple yet powerful idea that began with small scale coffee farmers now spans a vast range of products that includes soccer balls and soon artisanal gold.  From the 1988 launch of the world’s first Fair Trade labelling initiative, Stichting Max Havelaar is today part of a worldwide network of twenty-three certifying bodies, that includes TransFair Canada, and three producer networks within the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) International.

Check to see if what you buy is Fair Trade Goods or those done by slave labor or unscrupulous employers who abuse their workers.. Always check for the logo on goods you purchase. Fair Trade Labeling International

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Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 8:10 pm  Comments Off on Food industry probe reveals abuse of foreign workers  
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