The illegal hiring in agriculture in northern Italy is an increasingly serious problem

The illegal hiring in agriculture in northern Italy is an increasingly serious problem

Five people were sentenced with sentences of up to five years for a system of exploitation of African-born labor set up in Saluzzo, in the Cuneo area, while the laborers will receive compensation. This is the sentence pronounced by the Cuneo court, the first for illegal hiring in the North-West of Italy.

The pronouncement has been defined as "historic" because it opens a rift in the silence relating to those systems of labor exploitation that are usual attribute to the fields of the South and which instead swarm also in northern Italy, as the data show with increasing force. "Exploitation knows no borders", Aboubakar Soumahoro, president of Lega Braccianti and activist of Invisibili in Movimento, explains to of Saluzzo, in the province of Cuneo. The complaint of a laborer led the police to set up a long period of interceptions and stalking starting from Moumouni Tassembedo, known as "Momo" (from which the operation took its name), a man originally from Burkina Faso which acted as an intermediary between agricultural labor and some local companies.

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Above him there were in particular two companies managed by the Gastaldi and Depetris families, who, through Momo, used underpaid and exploited foreign workers, as certified by the judges of the Cuneo court. Against a gross pay of 5 / 5.50 euros per hour gross, the laborers were employed during the day in an organic farm while at night they were transferred to a company for the slaughter of poultry. In short, the whole day went off to work, in what the prosecutor Carla Longo defined as "gray corporal", a more or less veiled form of oppression that was based on the workers' fear of being unemployed.

Momo was sentenced to five years in prison, the same sentence imposed on the owners of the organic farm where the laborers were employed during the day. Instead, the owners of the slaughterhouse received a three-year sentence. As far as exploited workers are concerned, they will receive compensation of up to 50 thousand euros.

Labor exploitation in the fields of northern Italy The one relating to Saluzzo has been defined as a historic sentence, the first conviction for caporalato in an important agricultural district as is the Piedmontese one. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, since similar exploitation stories are emerging with increasing frequency in Northern Italy, disavowing the common idea that the problem belongs exclusively to the Central-Southern regions.

There are numerous episodes of illegal hiring reported in the vineyards of the Oltrepò Pavese, in southern Lombardy. There is an investigation concerning the exploitation of hundreds of agricultural workers in the province of Pordenone, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. A story that emerged more or less with the same pattern also in the Polesine of the province of Rovigo, in Veneto. And then many other episodes concerning the Lombard areas of Mantua and Cremona, the Veneto areas of the Euganean Hills, or even Trentino with the exploitation of labor for the production of wine.

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In March, the Placido Rizzotto Observatory of the Flai-Cgil trade union published Geography of the caporalato, the first of the notebooks that will compose the new Report dedicated to agromafies and exploitation. There are 405 districts of the country in which this crime is committed and about a third are located in the North, which is thus the Italian area with the most illegal hiring. If in the last decade the South and the Center of Italy have recorded a drastic drop in offenses, respectively by 42% and 23%, in the North the figure is up by 26%, suggesting that today the outbreak of the problem.

At a regional level, Sicily still has the highest number of offenses, but Veneto is in second place and regions such as Lombardy and Piedmont emerge just below.

“The illegal hiring knows no borders” “The sentence of the Cuneo court reminds us that exploitation knows no geographical boundaries, does not have dimensions linked to territorial location. It is exploited and that's all, and this destroys the vision that summarizes in the words 'South' and 'Mezzogiorno' every evil of this world, every deposit of deviance and exploitation, of inhuman conditions - underlines Aboubakar Soumahoro -. In reality, we find all this everywhere through characteristics that change according to the context. The commitment to combat these forms of exploitation must take place at all levels and altitudes ".

For Soumahoro, the problems of illegal hiring in northern Italy are nothing new, they have always existed. Today, if anything, they are coming into the open in new forms, he says: "Before there were white and very Italian exploited workers, today there is greater complexity in the fields from the point of view of geographical origin and this should not lead to a racialization with different salaries according to the color of the skin ". Elements emerged precisely in the countryside of the provinces of Cuneo, where non-white laborers reported wages of less than three euros per hour and wages therefore defined on the basis of the country of origin.

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Faced with all this, one wonders about the tools available to combat illegal hiring. "Politics has left everything to the activity of the judiciary, which is fine but we must also be aware that it is a slow tool, just think that the Cuneo investigation began four years ago - continues Soumahoro -. The tool of the judiciary is fundamental but in parallel there must be the daily newspaper, to be carried out within a trade union activity that must take place on the ground and not only in conferences. Then there is the need to revive the structures of the employment centers, qualifying those who carry out the work from the point of view of inspection. Finally, we need to imagine new devices such as the 'food license', to really ensure that workers do not suffer the dictatorship of the food giants and that agriculture returns to the service of the needs of the human person ".

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