1 Apr, 2023 @ 10:00
1 min read

NGO slams violations of migrant workers’ rights in Spain’s ‘Sea of Plastic’ greenhouses

Almeria greenhouses plastic Credit: Flickr/Roger Casas-Alatriste;
Almeria greenhouses plastic Credit: Flickr/Roger Casas-Alatriste;

A BRITISH NGO has released a scathing report about the working conditions of seasonal immigrant workers in Andalusia. Ethical Consumer says that fruit and vegetable farms in Spain are ‘routinely breaking eight out of nine basic workers’ rights’, with abuses including ‘refusal of legal wages, forced labour, sexual assault and intimidation’.

The NGO found that farm managers in southern Spain have ‘demanded sex in return for employment, confiscated passports so workers can’t ‘escape’, fired workers for trying to unionise or join strikes and penalised workers for going to the toilet’.

The report calls for UK supermarkets – Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, and Waitrose are named – to take immediate steps to protect these workers rights. 

The findings have been endorsed by organisations protecting workers’ rights, including Anti-Slavery International, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Leigh Day solicitors and the Landworkers’ Alliance.

‘I urge supermarkets to end their complicity in this abuse and address the issue head-on, using this report as their guide,’ said UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier de Schutter.

The report focuses on the Huelva and Almeria provinces of Spain, which are home to the so-called ‘Mar de Plastico’ (Sea of Plastic) network of greenhouses, used to grow fruit and vegetables that are consumed domestically and throughout Europe. 

In fact, the UK imports more fresh food from Spain than any other country, according to government figures cited by Ethical Consumer. Much of it comes from the areas that are focused on in the report. 

The NGO is calling on these retailers to improve their supply chain policies, so that they cover the workers growing produce on farms, and ‘commit to supporting Worker-Driven Social Responsibility (WSR) mechanisms as they begin to develop in Spain’.

With such a model, workers define the conditions they want to see met, and retailers such as supermarkets make ‘legally binding commitments to only buy produce from suppliers that uphold these conditions’.

Read more:

From shanty town to supermarket shelf: The shocking truth behind Spain’s vegetable growing industry

Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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