Time to re­move the rose-tinted spec­ta­cles

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - COMMENT -

Sir, – There has been a lot of de­bate re­cently over why there doesn’t seem to be enough pick­ers for the straw­ber­ries.

The truth is that times have changed and there is now a much more highly-pres­sured pro­duc­tion sys­tem than there was when fam­i­lies were col­lected by the berry buses.

The big su­per­mar­kets push down the farm­ers’ prices and the farm­ers pass the pres­sure on to their work­ers.

Work­ers are paid piece rates but have to pick fast enough to make the min­i­mum wage or they are off the fields.

It is a highly ex­ploita­tive sys­tem.

To make it work the farms re­cruit young peo­ple from Eastern Europe who mainly stay to­gether in car­a­vans on the farm.

It is hard for them to com­plain about the pres­sures as they will lose their ac­com­mo­da­tion as well as their job.

How­ever, if they can save their money it should go fur­ther when they get home.

Very few pick­ing jobs are ad­ver­tised lo­cally.

Although it may seem some­what ab­surd that these jobs aren’t go­ing to lo­cal un­em­ployed peo­ple, we would hardly ad­vo­cate for any­one to be pushed into such ex­ploita­tive work.

This is es­pe­cially the case given the back­drop of a ben­e­fit sys­tem that leaves un­sup­ported gaps when­ever you sign back on af­ter tem­po­rary em­ploy­ment.

Sadly this ex­ploita­tion won’t end with­out ma­jor changes to our whole pat­tern of food re­tail and pro­duc­tion.

Sarah Glynn. Scot­tish Un­em­ployed Work­ers’ Net­work, c/o Cas­tle Ter­race, Broughty Ferry.

Pic­ture: Bob Dou­glas.

The high-pres­sured pro­duc­tion sys­tem, not the lack of work­ers, should be taken into ac­count in the berry-pick­ing de­bate, ar­gues one cor­re­spon­dent.

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