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Seasonal workers welfare protected by new taskforce

A taskforce has been established to ensure the responsible recruitment and employment of migrant workers under the seasonal workers scheme in the UK.

The group comprises trade bodies, retailers, growers, recruiters, and non-profit organisations, and will work with the government to improve practices and safeguard workers' rights.

The initiative follows concerns raised in previous seasons about exploitation risks faced by some migrant workers on seasonal worker visas, leading to the loss of a seasonal worker scheme operator's license.

The taskforce will focus on improving access to information and communication, monitoring and improving practices during recruitment and on farms, and addressing recruitment fees and overall earnings.

One producer involved in the scheme, Clock House Farm, has called for greater clarity and forward-planning from the government to help avoid future exploitation of workers.

Earlier this year, AG Recruitment, a recruitment agency, had their license as a seasonal worker scheme operator revoked after they brought Indonesian pickers to the UK who had accumulated debts of thousands of pounds to unlicensed foreign brokers.

The Guardian reported that some of these workers owed up to £5,000 to these brokers upon arriving in the UK for only a single season of work. AG denied any wrongdoing and claimed to be unaware of the Indonesian brokers charging fees.

Last year, over 200 Indonesian workers sought assistance from their embassy in the UK after encountering various difficulties working on farms.

According to The Guardian, many of these workers arrived late in the season and found themselves unable to repay their debts due to insufficient work. Some complained of receiving inadequate work hours after failing to meet demanding picking quotas.

Following the disclosures, several roundtables involving multiple stakeholders were conducted in autumn 2022 with the objective of devising practical measures to tackle such hazards.

Consequently, several working groups were established, and UK supermarkets funded a range of initiatives with industry involvement. These initiatives comprised regional roadshows, a toolkit for promoting good practices, a unified assessment of scheme operators and a multi-language worker-information application, which was financed by the scheme operators.

In the future, the task force will concentrate on enhancing the seasonal workers scheme within its present framework. The workstreams will involve enhancing workers' access to information and communication, monitoring and improving recruitment practices and on-farm practices, and addressing recruitment fees paid by workers and augmenting their overall earnings.


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