The attacks on the agriculture of Almeria don’t stop, no matter if we were out buying Santa’s gifts. On December 20, digital media Ethical Consumer published an article with the headline “Supermarkets and certificates failing to defend Spanish workers.”
The article is based entirely on the statements of José of the SOC-SAT union, but it would have been good if the anonymous author of the article had asked for some proof of the serious accusations made by the trade unionist.
To begin with, he says that the exploitation of migrants in the region has been known since the year 2011. I don’t want to speak ill of ourselves, but by 2011 the conditions of the workers in the Almeria countryside had improved significantly, thanks in part to the level of visibility their problems had reached. For example, in 2001 there were protests after the unfortunate accident of van of undocumented workers in the region of Murcia, and a wave of violence experienced in El Ejido in 2000. Why does the article say the year 2011? Well, we suppose that it was the year in which José began working with the workers union in the fields of Almeria. We can’t think of another possible trigger in the head of this man–for something that wouldn’t have been published if the author had done minimal research about the truthfulness of these statements.
And with this level of confidence we continue reading. We get to the part stating that in recent years there have been “several deaths of workers due to exposure to hazardous chemicals.” Several? How many? Don’t you know the exact number? Working in the greenhouses of Almeria is not especially dangerous, although all professions have risk, unfortunately. In the last 20 years, the use of phytosanitary products has been drastically reduced thanks to biological control. This has allowed us to improve the food safety of our products, but without a doubt the greatest advantage is that we work in a much cleaner environment. Even so, sometimes we do have to use chemicals, and we are obliged by law to follow all the rules of occupational risk prevention. Even despite this, if an accident at work does occur, the responsible farmers are duly prosecuted, because there are laws for this. Of course, the farmers themselves can be victims of occupational accidents. In Níjar this year we buried a partner who was in his greenhouse during a hail storm.
The most scandalous part of the article is when they talk about Lidl and Sainsbury’s claiming that their suppliers comply with the Global GAP GRASP standard, a voluntary module that guarantees the good social practices of producing companies (and that we ourselves have fully complied with since 2012). Well, knowing the great effort required to pass an audit of these characteristics, enters José with a phrase (but of course, no proof), to knock it all down: “the companies provide with auditors false information.” The work of auditors, workers, quality control and human resources is turned to dust by a testimony based on nothing.
Then comes a paragraph where they talk about a company, of course unnamed, and the testimony of Mohamed, a worker at the anonymous company, who works without following the labor risk regulations, and who they want to fire for refusing to work on three occasions in these conditions. We have always said that we do NOT write this blog to defend those businesses that take advantage of the vulnerable state of migrants living in our province. It is the state that must ensure that the law is enforced, and for that there are controls and courts. The government is also responsible for ending the state of vulnerability of these people: it makes no sense that they are forced to risk their lives at sea and then have to live here illegally before they can obtain a work permit. Almerian farmers cannot be blamed for the inequality on the world’s most unequal border, which separates Europe from Africa. Perhaps it could also be important to listen to farmers, our profitability problems and the need to sell products at a reasonable price. At Eurosol, we will continue to do right by our workers and customers. Let each one do his part.