Landworkers’ Alliance report highlights issues leading to worker exploitation in UK horticulture sector

A recent study by the Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA)  has highlighted the systemic issues in the UK’s immigration system that lead to the exploitation of seasonal workers in the horticultural sector, the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) reports.

Debt, Migration and Exploitation: The Seasonal Worker Visa and the Degradation of Working Conditions in UK Horticulture examines the plight of seasonal workers, primarily recruited from abroad to work in the UK’s agricultural sector via the Seasonal Worker Visa scheme.

Recent investigations have exposed a range of issues faced by these visa holders, including low pay, wage theft, long working hours, and mistreatment by supervisors.

The LWA’s latest study adds to this growing body of evidence, revealing the legal and economic frameworks that enable the exploitation of these workers, the FPC says.

It also provides a platform for the workers themselves to share their experiences and suggest solutions to the challenges they face. An analysis by the New Economics Foundation, included in the report, shows that these migrant workers earn just 7.6 per cent of the total retail price of the produce they pick.

The report also discusses the negative impact of illegal broker fees, which some workers have to pay to recruitment agencies in their home countries. These fees can result in workers essentially losing money, as their earnings are insufficient to cover accommodation, subsistence, and travel costs. The study includes a detailed account from a former seasonal worker from Nepal, highlighting the exploitation by recruitment agencies and the need for a safer and more secure visa scheme.

In its concluding section, the report explores alternative labour rights models, drawing on the experiences of worker-led initiatives in Florida, USA, as potential solutions to the issues raised.