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EXCLUSIVE: Union launches authorized motion with seasonal employee in opposition to UK fruit farm

One of many UK’s greatest fruit producers is dealing with a authorized problem from a seasonal migrant employee and her union over allegations of harassment and discrimination at a farm in Herefordshire.

United Voices of the World (UVW) union consider it’s the first declare of its type, marking the primary time a seasonal employee has launched a authorized problem at an Employment Tribunal.

UVW are supporting the claimant Julia Quencaño Casimir, a Bolivian nationwide residing in Chile, who’s launching the authorized proceedings in opposition to the fruit firm Haygrove Restricted.

Julia was considered one of a gaggle of migrant seasonal staff recruited from Chile in 2023, the primary 12 months the recruitment of seasonal staff from Latin America was opened below the UK authorities’s continued enlargement of the Seasonal Employee Visa scheme.   

In July, Julia led the primary recorded wildcat strike by seasonal staff within the UK at a farm in Herefordshire, which noticed some 88 staff stroll out over well being and security issues, claims of wage theft and alleged degrading working circumstances.

Employees felt pushed to take strike motion after discovering out they might be charged over £400 greater than the price of the flight that they had agreed to pay again. Haygrove has since accepted this was a mistake and is investigating the overcharge with their journey brokers.

In response to Julia, after the strike motion her and dozens of different staff have been compelled to flee the farm over the working circumstances and pay.

Commenting on the wildcat strike, the claimant Julia stated: “They assume we’re ignorant and that we don’t have a say. However we all know that we’re within the twenty first century and we’ve info and a strategy to take this ahead. So we stated we’re going to proceed and we weren’t afraid.”

The union has raised allegations of whistleblowing victimisation after well being and issues of safety have been raised on the farm, in addition to an alleged breach of contract, with the employer accussed of failing to offer from day one the 42 hours of labor Julia was verbally promised when she was recruited in Chile resulting in the lack of lots of of kilos, the union has claimed.

Haygrove has refuted all allegations and known as them “materially factually incorrect and deceptive”. The corporate pointed to “unprecedented chilly climate in July” which meant staff have been unable to start out work instantly on the time of arrival.

The corporate said that staff’ hours, pay and payslips have been audited by each the Residence Workplace and the GLAA, with no discrepancies or wrongdoing.

Allegations of bullying or discrimation have been additionally refuted.

The corporate wrote: “Our enterprise recruits and employs greater than 1,000 seasonal staff yearly from many international locations on our UK farms, and we take nice care in making certain equity and equality when doing so.”

The union has alleged that bosses threatened to take away shifts as “punishment” for not selecting sufficient fruit, in addition to allegations of harassment and discrimination together with threatening dismissal, subjecting Julia to extreme stress.

Haygrove has denied selecting tagets are used to punish, however as an alternative to “determine, and provide further hours to, excessive performing staff” and has stated crew leaders and supervisors don’t inform staff to select quicker or shout.

It follows an extensive investigation into the treatment of migrant workers on farms throughout the UK by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which raised questions in regards to the Residence Workplace’s response to welfare points raised in latest farm inspection experiences.

Petros Elia, UVW common secretary, hoped the tribunal will expose the “large shortcomings” within the authorities’s “so-called laws” on seasonal work visas.

“All the seasonal employee scheme is a shame which is a present to the bosses on the expense of even essentially the most primary freedoms most staff have, similar to the proper to resign and discover various work, one thing they’ll’t legally do even when their rights are being systematically violated,” stated Petros Elia.

“We name on all staff, seasonal or in any other case, to face up and battle and by no means settle for being handled as something however an equal.”

A preliminary listening to has been set for March, 2024.

(Picture credit score: UVW union)

The publish EXCLUSIVE: Union launches legal action with seasonal worker against UK fruit farm appeared first on Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK's progressive debate.