Press release 29 January 2024
For more information contact: Valeria Ragni, 07474 703452 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Worker Support Centre (WSC), a non-profit organisation supporting migrant workers, today published data from work supporting seasonal agricultural workers in 2023. The report outlines cases taken forward for seasonal workers that raise serious questions for industry and government about the risks to migrant workers in agriculture. Issues raised include non-payment of wages, poor treatment, and illegal fees paid to come to work in the UK. This study is being released directly following publication of a legal challenge against the UK government that claims the agricultural visa scheme is breaching workers human rights. This data represents the largest ever independent study of seasonal agricultural workers’ experiences in the UK.
From June-December 2023, the WSC supported 405 individuals from over 12 countries worldwide, with 149 cases and 256 enquiries. Of the 149 cases, 74% concerned working conditions. These spanned issues related to pay raised in 26% of cases, including non-payment of wages, or insufficient holiday or sick pay. Health and safety issues were also raised in 17% of cases, including incidences of unaddressed and severe injuries at work.
In addition the WSC helped workers with issues related to the “Seasonal Worker visa” scheme. Workers on this visa are sponsored by a licensed Scheme Operator and employed by a farm, this kind of ‘tied’ and ‘temporary’ visa is known to increase risks of exploitation for workers. Of the 149 cases taken forward 24% related to issues with this visa. 15% related to barriers to workers leaving one farm to work on another with large numbers of workers being forced to remain on farms where they faced abuse and risks of exploitation.
The WSC implements a unique model of worker-driven support directed towards temporary migrant workers – who are generally un-unionised and isolated. All our support work is led by Outreach Caseworkers who are former seasonal agricultural workers themselves.
Iryna Pakhil, Outreach Caseworker said:
“I lived that life, I have first-hand experience of the problems workers face and I can read between the lines when they ask for our support. This work is so important because nobody but us listens to these workers; even when we’re not able to help, people are happy to know that somebody cares.”
Valeria Ragni, Centre Manager said:
“This report provides a detailed picture of the main issues workers are facing in the UK right now. The risks they face in workplaces are clearly articulated here by workers themselves, and action must be taken to prevent exploitation.”
The Scottish Government supports the WSC’s work and many issues identified by workers have been raised with the UK and Scottish government and industry to seek improvements for all workers.