UK supermarket M&S has pledged to interview migrant agricultural workers on a Scottish fruit farm following claims of unfair working practices by people coming to work in Scotland through a UK Government scheme.
After concerns about fair pay were raised, Marks and Spencer confirmed it is planning to speak to this year’s migrant workers for one of its strawberry suppliers; Castleton Farm in Aberdeenshire.
Reports of concerns from Castleton fruit pickers coincided with the publication of a report last month by Focus on Labor Exploitation (Flex, a charity based out of London) about the risks of labor exploitation associated with the seasonal agricultural workers scheme pilot.
The study drew on data collected from workers placed by the scheme on 12 unnamed Scottish farms. It found no cases of human trafficking, which has been a problem at some UK farms, and highlighted some good practice, but also claimed to have produced evidence of forced labor indicators, such as degrading conditions and “excessive dependency on employers”.
Thenational.scot reports that, with the scheme expanding this year, Flex is now warning that the combination of Brexit – which has ended free movement – and Covid-19 restrictions will create “the perfect storm” of risk for migrants coming to work in the UK this year.
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