A report in The Observer says that seasonal workers from Nepal have been left thousands of pounds in debt after they were not given the work they were promised on UK top fruit farms.
The newspaper, which spoke to 12 workers, said, ‘Workers said they had quit jobs to come to the UK and have been left thousands of pounds in debt after borrowing money to cover their flights and fees to third-party job brokers. They also face steep airline charges to rearrange return journeys.
‘Some of the workers, who arrived in September, have already gone. Others who cannot afford tickets have been ordered to leave the farm where they were working in Kent – which has supplied supermarkets including Tesco, Co-op and M&S – or face being “blacklisted” from future jobs.’
One worker, who the newspaper named Sajit, said he had sold his shop to come to the UK and still had more than £3,000 in debt to repay – about a year’s salary in Nepal. “They told us six months will be good money for us, but we get less money than we did in Nepal. If we go back, we don’t have any work,” he said.
The workers were recruited by AG Recruitment under the SAWs scheme and appear to have paid fees to job brokers in Nepal unrelated to the official channels. AG Recruitment said it was unaware that workers had been charged. “We make it extremely clear both during our recruitment process and also in all our contracts that it is against the law for anyone to ask a worker to pay for work,” the company said.
AG Recruitment added that it had arranged for four to six months work, but “extreme circumstances” meant it could not transfer the workers to another agricultural employer as planned. However, one of the workers queries why they had been recruited at the end of the season. AG Recruitment is conducting an internal review.
Gaskains, the company where the workers were placed, said it was aware that further work had been planned for the fruit pickers and believed AG had “tried hard” to find some “when ongoing requests for staff were cancelled.” Charles Gaskain, the company’s director, said it was “a pity that such a changeable season … has so unusually created this situation.”