November 27, 2022

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The French judiciary condemns the employment of seasonal agricultural workers in inappropriate conditions

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The French judiciary condemns the employment of seasonal agricultural workers in inappropriate conditions

Spain’s Terra Fecundis, which sent workers, mostly Ecuadoreans, to farms in southern France, has been found guilty for the second time in a year for violating European rules on published work.

Meanwhile, farm managers in Gard and Bouches-du-Rhone, who used his services to hire employees, particularly in summer fruit picking, were sentenced to fines for “undercover work”.

One of them was given a suspended prison sentence for harboring these seasonal workers for years in more than deplorable conditions.

The temporary work company based in Murcia (southern Spain), now renamed Work for All, was the subject of a report to the Nimes Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2014 because it allegedly employed seasonal workers. In accordance with the rules of temporary appointment in force in the European Union.

But it made a large part of its 50 million annual sales in France, without issuing the necessary social and tax returns.

In total, between 2012 and 2015, the Spanish group provided more than 26,000 employees, mostly from South America, to various French farms. They were largely denied overtime pay, and were forced to work up to 70 hours a week for some.

In July 2021, she was sentenced by the Marseille Criminal Court, and she was fined 500,000 euros. Its three Spanish leaders, Juan Jose López Pacheco, his brother Francisco and Seledinho Beria Col, were given a four-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 100,000 euros.

Terra Fecundis was tried again last month, this time by the Nimes (Guard) Criminal Court, on similar facts relating to the period from December 2017 to October 2018.

On April 1, she was fined 375,000 euros, according to the text of the ruling obtained by AFP on Monday. She was also permanently banned from engaging in any activity related to temporary work in France.

The leaders of the Spanish company were not prosecuted.

– ‘Disgusting, disgusting, unspeakable’ –

On the other hand, the managers of seven partner French farms were also on the sidewalk. All of them received fines of between 10,000 and 15,000 euros, including a suspended variable part, for “hidden work” and “illegal employment of foreign workers”.

One of the managers, who in particular owned a place nicknamed “El Carcel” (the prison, in Spanish) by South American workers, was also given a six-month suspended prison sentence.

At one of the sites he ran, which consisted of a sturdy building and 11 mobile homes erected in an open courtyard, labor inspectors noted that the bathrooms were in an “unspeakable dirt condition”, and the “rest of the bathrooms in a disgusting condition”. The state” and the kitchens are in a “disgusting, filthy state.”

At another location, staff explained that they could not sleep inside if the temperature was too high due to the lack of ventilation and the windows to be turned off.

The labor inspectors, whose report was added to the criminal file, concluded that “basic conditions of hygiene and comfort” were “not respected” and that living conditions were “contrary to human dignity.”

The CFDT union, which has filed a civil lawsuit alongside CGT and FO in particular, welcomed the outcome of Nîmes’ trial on Monday.

The union’s attorney, Me Vincent Schneegans, commented, “This is clearly a very satisfactory new decision, as it leads the nail in Marseille’s judgment (regarding Petra Vicondes) and it condemns the farmers.” “This should be a warning sign for agricultural companies,” because “they concern 5,000 employees a year in southern France,” he added.

Terra Fecundis was also marked in 2020 for the poor accommodation conditions of its agricultural workers after 258 cases of Covid emerged among seasonal workers in Provence.

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