Press Release – Climate of fear among migrant workers in UK agriculture

For immediate release – 03/10/2014

New research by ‘la Confédération Paysanne’ and ‘The Landworkers’ Alliance’ has uncovered the negative impact of the British industrial food production system on its workers. Interviews with workers, trade union representatives and support organisations revealed that many migrant workers were too frightened to complain about poor and often unlawful working conditions. They feared being dismissed by their employers or not being offered further work by their agency.

On the other end of the supply chain, consumers are unaware of the hidden costs of low food prices. The intensive and concentrated food system in Britain requires extreme flexibility from workers and puts them in precarious positions. Too often, farmers and food processors who are facing pressure from major retailers to lower prices do so by cutting labour costs. Migrants and agency workers are in the most vulnerable position as they are working in the most uncertain and unstable conditions. The existing institutional safeguards available to them have been undermined by the recent austerity policies and so-called “red-tape reduction” measures.

‘La Confédération Paysanne’ and ‘The Landworkers’ Alliance’, members of the international farming movement ‘la Via Campesina’ want to:

– Remind policy makers that workers’ rights violations in agriculture and food production do not only happen in far-flung food production sites but also in European countries such as the UK;

– Affirm that the industrial and productivist agricultural model means declining living and working conditions for millions of European small-holding farmers, and the denial of rights and worsening working conditions for millions of workers in the agriculture and food sector;

– Refuse a system where cheap agricultural products are the result of low incomes for small-scale farmers and of low wages and rights violations for workers along the food supply chain;

– Call for a true social conditionality to be introduced under the cross-compliance framework of the European Common Agricultural Policy;

– Ask for the principle of food sovereignty to be recognized in international law.

Press contact:

Nicolas Duntze, Farmer Program Coordinator, ‘la Confédération Paysanne’,

Fanny Florémont, Project Officer, ‘la Confédération Paysanne’,

Adam Payne, Grower and Secretary, ‘The Landworkers Alliance’

La Confédération Paysanne is a French agricultural union supporting small-scale producers and striving to ensure that agricultural workers’ rights and dignity are respected. It has been working together with partner organisation and volunteer project officers to publicise migrant workers’ rights violations in the food and agricultural sector in Europe. More information about the program:

The Landworkers’ Alliance is a union of small-scale producers and family farmers in the UK. It campaigns for the rights of small-scale producers and lobbies the UK government and European parliament for policies that support the infrastructure and markets central to the livelihoods of its members. The LWA is a member of the international peasant farming movement La Via Campesina which represents 200 million small-scale producers around the world.