• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Migrants 'exploited' in Italian tomato industry

The Local · 20 Nov 2014, 16:09

Published: 20 Nov 2014 16:09 GMT+01:00

According to the report from DanWatch, cited on The Local Denmark, two out of every three imported cans of tomatoes sold in Denmark come from Italy, where illegal migrants work long hours with no contract and very low pay.

Some 400,000 migrant workers – primarily young men who come to southern Europe from north and west African countries – pluck tomatoes in Italy without a contract.

They receive an average hourly wage of just €3 compared to an average wage of €8.20 for legally-employed workers, while many of them are recruited by gang leaders and live in constant fear of their employers.

“They are very scared and won’t talk about it with anyone. They live in sheds and barracks and shantytowns that exist solely of immigrants,” Louise Voller, the co-author of DanWatch's 'The backside of the tomato can: Gross exploitation and illegal manpower in Danish canned tomatoes', told the Danish broadcaster, DR.

Migrant workers told DanWatch that they can only find work through gang leaders known as ‘Caporali’, who they must pay in exchange for being delivered to Italian farmers.

Canned tomatoes from Italy bring in 130 million kroner (€17.4 million) a year in Denmark, but the sales may violate UN laws.

“The UN has defined guidelines for human rights and for trade, so when these kinds of conditions are discovered, the supermarkets have a responsibility [...] when they find that the working conditions in Italy negatively impact migrant workers’ rights in relation to rest, free time and salary,” Sune Skadegaard Thorsen, the head of consulting firm Global CSR, told DR.

After the release of DanWatch’s report, two major supermarket companies – Coop and Dansk Supermarked, who between them operate nearly all of the major supermarkets in Denmark – said they would bring up the workers’ conditions with their Italian suppliers.

“We will take it up with our suppliers and will stress the importance of all tomatoes coming from responsible producers,” Mads Hvitved Grand, a spokesman for Dansk Supermarked, told DR.

Dansk Supermarked operates the supermarket chains Netto, Bilka and Føtex. Its main competitor Coop, which operates the Kvickly, Super Brugsen, Irma and Fakta chains, also said it would push its Italian partners.

Story continues below…

“It’s a long, long haul for us. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t try. Quite the contrary,” company spokeswoman Ulla Riber told DR.

Thorsen said the Danish companies need to get tough with the Italians.

“At the end of the day, the chains need to say: ‘If we cannot sell tomatoes that are produced under acceptable conditions, then we will pull out.’ They have a responsibility to deliver a product that was made under proper conditions,” he said.  

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.it)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Italy has Europe's oldest population: Eurostat
Italy is home to the highest proportion of over-80-year-olds in the EU. File photo: Pexels

13 of every 200 people in Italy are aged over 80 - the highest proportion in the EU.

Italy police get lunch for poor woman 'forced to steal food'
The stolen goods only amounted to €14. File photo: Pexels

The woman had stolen food worth €14 from a supermarket.

Renzi: UK won't get special treatment post-Brexit
The UK can't expect an easy ride post-Brexit, Renzi warned. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Italian PM Matteo Renzi said the UK won't get more rights than other countries outside the EU after voting to leave the bloc.

Looters steal computers from quake town's new school
Almost a third of the schools in the area are now unusable. The above photo is of a school in Amatrice: AFP

The school had only been opened two weeks ago, after the town's existing two schools were left unusable by the earthquake.

Here's what Americans in Italy think about the US elections
The candidates shake hands before the debate. Photo: AFP

Four American expat voters from across the political spectrum talk about the issues which influenced their vote, and how it feels watching the elections from Italy.

Italy scraps bid to host 2023 Rugby World Cup
Italy's rugby team at the Six Nations earlier this year. Photo: AFP

The move is a result of Rome's decision not to bid for the 2024 Olympics.

Italy's migrant centres in crisis amid money worries
A man and his daughter in a Sardinian centre for refugees. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

The centres are fuller than ever - but the government has stopped paying.

Berlusconi at 80: My regrets and future plans
Berlusconi turns 80 on Thursday. Photo: AFP

"Politics was never really my passion," says Italy's longest-serving post-war premier.

Italy 'held naval manoeuvres with Iran' in strategic strait
The Strait of Hormuz. File photo: AFP

The Italian ambassador called the port call "a positive sign".

Northern Italian region approves 'anti-mosque' laws
One of Italy's few purpose-built mosques, in Rome. File photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Similar laws in other regions have been scrapped for being anti-constitutional.

Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Culture
Eight things you should know about Rome's Spanish Steps
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The incredible hero dogs of Italy’s earthquake
National
Why quake-hit Amatrice will never be the same again
National
Why discontented Italians could derail their economy
Society
Keep passports safe: Typical pickpocket scams revealed
Culture
Why coffee in Italy is a culture you must taste to understand
Society
The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still rich today
Culture
So why do pasta-loving Italians live such long lives?
National
Italy's Renzi prepares for stormy autumn
Society
This 104-year-old just saw the sea for the first time
National
Should Rome give up on its 2024 Olympic dream?
Society
The Italian doctor giving hope to thousands of migrants
Culture
Ten 'Italian' dishes that don't actually exist in Italy
Sport
Five Italian athletes going for gold at the Rio Olympics
Travel
Trastevere: From a fiery past to Rome’s souvenir stand
Politics
Think Trump would be a disaster? Just ask the Italians
National
How Brexit has helped to expose Italy’s banking malaise
Politics
After Brexit, keep a close eye on Italy's Five Star Movement
Lifestyle
12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Italy
National
Why Milan could be Europe's post-Brexit financial hub
Travel
Five crowd-free alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
2,748
jobs available