'Illegal work in agriculture must end'

Milan Center for Food Law and Policy, Coop tell EP

(ANSA) - Brussels, June 1 - The president of the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy, Livia Pomodoro, has called on the European Parliament for EU legislation to fight labor exploitation in the agricultural sector.
    The Milan Center for Food Law and Policy, a permanent observatory created in February 2014 by Expo SpA, the city of Milan, the Lombardy region and the Milan chamber of commerce, has launched the initiative 'Be Aware' together with Italian consumers cooperative Coop.
    The campaign is aimed at promoting a European legislative framework in favor of good practices against labor exploitation in agriculture, a Europe-wide phenomenon.
    Illegal work is particularly common in southern and eastern Europe, according to data just published in the report 'Best practices against work exploitation in agriculture'.
    The study published by the observatory said that illegal workers in agriculture in Romania and Portugal represent, respectively, 40% and 60% of the sector's workforce.
    In Poland, illegal farm workers exceed 25% and in Italy 30%.
    Germany and Austria have an estimated 10% of illegal workers employed in the sector, according to the study.
    The European average is 25%.
    The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani stressed that the issue cannot only be dealt with at a national level - Italy in 2016 passed a law designed to crack down on illegal labor in agriculture - but also at a European level to reaffirm the "basic values that gave life to the EU".
    Illegal labor also gives an unfair advantage to companies exploiting workers, lawmakers noted.
    Democratic Party (PD) European MP Patrizia Toia, the vice-president of the industry committee, noted that it is necessary to "counter phenomena unworthy of a civil society" with a mobile workforce in Europe.
    Nevertheless, the fragmentation of national contexts makes an EU approach difficult.
    The vice-president of the EP's agricultural committee, Paolo De Castro, noted how previous attempts to provide funding only to agricultural companies following specific labor standards, as seen with the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) reforms of agricultural commissioners Franz Fischler and Dacian Ciolos, were unfortunately "unsuccessful".
    According to European lawmaker and social affairs committee member ,Elena Genile, a starting point could be represented by the "European platform against undeclared work" launched in 2016 by the European Commission.
    European MP Cécile Kyenge said that, "we need to build an armor of rights also to prevent conflicts", noting that a key way to promote social integration while favoring local development is the promotion of "clean agro-industries, with certified labels and aware consumers".
    And the president of the national association of consumer cooperatives Ancc-Coop, Stefano Bassi, stressed that good practices already exist, talking about the campaign "Buoni e giusti", or good and fair. He said that suppliers for Coop, the largest grocery chain in Italy, pledge to abide by labor laws and undergo routine checks with the risk of losing their client if they are found not to respect workers' rights.
    The report cited other examples of good practices including projects promoted by Catholic charity Caritas in Italy, French regulations that eliminated illegal work in harvesting and technological innovation thanks to which agriculture provides work and integration opportunities for migrants while boosting the local economy in Spain's Almeria region.