29th Sept 2022: Workers’ rights – Review of UK seasonal worker visas to increase risk of slavery, experts warn

Find copied below link to the fourth installment by Emily Dugan at The Guardian on the forced labour risks in the UK government’s seasonal worker scheme, with her focus on Indonesian and Nepali workers recently migrating to the UK.

I also include the 1st, 2nd and 3rd installment stories below at the bottom of the text for reference.

Workers’ rights
Review of UK seasonal worker visas to increase risk of slavery, experts warn

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/sep/29/review-of-uk-seasonal-worker-visas-to-increase-risk-of-slavery-experts-warn

Exclusive: labour rights experts say Liz Truss’s proposals to tackle shortages will put workers at risk
Emily Dugan
@emilydugan
Thu 29 Sep 2022 01.00 EDT

More people will be at risk of modern slavery on British farms if a cap on seasonal worker visas is lifted, labour rights experts have warned.
Liz Truss has signalled that she intends to lift the cap on foreign workers in seasonal agriculture as part of a review of visas to tackle labour shortages.
The proposals come at a time when Britain has no anti-slavery commissioner to scrutinise modern slavery risks in government policies.
Sara Thornton, who was commissioner until April this year, said the government “needs to deal with the potential for worker abuse and the danger of debt bondage” before expanding the seasonal worker scheme further.
Thornton, now a professor of modern slavery policy at the University of Nottingham, added: “We need to be really careful. I understand why they want to do this but these workers will be vulnerable.
“We need to ensure that they’re not subjected to recruitment fees, we need to ensure that they don’t come here in debt bondage and that they’re able to have a contract in their own language and to [report concerns].”
The seasonal worker scheme has already been rapidly expanded, with about 40,000 visas issued this year, up from just 2,500 in its pilot in 2019.
Brexit and the war in Ukraine mean workers are being recruited from more distant countries that have fewer labour protections than in Europe. Experts say the high cost of flights and visas also increase the risk of debt bondage even in situations where no other exploitative fees are charged.
The Guardian revealed last month that Indonesian workers arriving under the seasonal worker scheme reported shouldering debts of up to £5,000 for one season’s fruit picking in Kent. A Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) investigation is under way.
The proposed expansion to the scheme comes as the watchdog tasked with overseeing it has had its budget cut and its inspections of current labour providers are at an all-time low.
The GLAA had completed just 12 inspections of its more than 1,000 licence holders to check for compliance by August this year, the Guardian has learned. It took an average of more than 10 months to complete compliance inspections of labour providers in the last financial year, missing its own targets.
Despite the growing risks of exploitation in the wake of Brexit, the GLAA’s overall budget of just over £7m has shrunk by £300,000 in the last five years – before inflation is factored in. It began this financial year with a budget deficit of £500,000, which it said presented “a significant challenge on our ability to deliver against our strategic plan”, adding that it might need to “review staff volumes”.
Andy Hall, a researcher who specialises in investigating forced labour in supply chains in Asia, said: “If the scheme is rapidly expanded, the modern slavery risk really increases, particularly the risk of debt bondage. There needs to be a simultaneous increase in regulation and enforcement if they’re going to increase the number of workers because even now the scheme is failing to protect them.”
Kate Roberts, head of policy at Focus on Labour Exploitation, said that Britain lacked options for independent monitoring or compensation, pointing out that the GLAA is clear that it “does not routinely inspect farms or have jurisdiction over overseas recruitment”.
Roberts added: “There is already extensive evidence of workers paying illegal recruitment fees to enter the scheme, putting them at risk of debt bondage. Increasing the number of workers recruited on to the scheme without first addressing funding and resourcing issues within labour market enforcement will mean that even more workers are likely to be exploited.”
The GLAA said that the 12 compliance inspections logged by August did not include “day-to-day welfare visits to labour providers”, ongoing inspections, or those that have gone to appeal. The watchdog has also faced a rise in the number of inspections needed to grant new licence applications.
A spokesperson said: “A significant amount of work has been carried out to speed up and improve the time it takes to complete our compliance inspections. The average time taken to complete a compliance inspection in the first quarter this year has been 87 working days, down substantially on the 229 figure from last year.”
A government spokesperson said: “The seasonal-worker route has been running for three years and each year improvements have been made to stop labour exploitation and clamp down on poor work conditions while people are in the UK.
We take migrant welfare extremely seriously.”


Indonesians wait on UK farm jobs after paying deposits of up to £2,500
Exclusive: Workers say they have been charged to guarantee a job – which may be illegal – and have not yet had an interview
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/25/indonesians-wait-on-uk-farm-jobs-after-paying-deposits-of-up-to-2500


‘Our fate is unclear’: Indonesian man who paid £1,000 deposit for UK farm job
Intan says he paid more than a month’s wages from his old job to guarantee his place, but remains unemployed
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/25/our-fate-is-unclear-indonesian-man-who-paid-1000-deposit-for-uk-farm-job

Analysis
Rapid expansion of visa scheme leaves seasonal workers at risk of exploitation
Emily Dugan
Experts say scheme’s rules urgently need significant changes to prioritise worker protection
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/25/rapid-expansion-of-visa-scheme-leaves-seasonal-workers-at-risk-of-exploitation


Indonesia to investigate claims fruit pickers in UK seasonal agricultural workers scheme charged thousands to work in Kent Exclusive: Taskforce begins work after labourers told Guardian they faced huge debts to unlicensed brokers in Bali https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/29/indonesia-to-investigate-claims-fruit-pickers-charged-thousands-to-work-in-kent?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other (29th August 2022)

Revealed: Indonesian workers on UK farm ‘at risk of debt bondage’ https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/14/uk-farm-workers-kent-debt-indonesian-brokers (14th August 2022)

‘My family need my support to eat’: how Indonesians came to work on a Kent farm https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/14/how-indonesians-came-work-kent-farm-debt (14th August 2022)

Why UK farms are recruiting fruit pickers from 7,000 miles away https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/14/why-uk-farms-recruiting-fruit-pickers-from-7000-miles-away (14th August 2022)

Why UK Migrant Fruit Pickers Charged Thousands in Fees to Work on UK Farms, Exclusive BIJ/Guardian Investigation Shows https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/may/27/migrant-fruit-pickers-charged-thousands-in-fees-to-work-on-uk-farms-investigation-shows (27th May 2022)

AAWL Podcast interview with Andy Hall: Ansell’s Forced Labour in Malaysia

The AAWL Radio program followed up the latest revelations on forced labour:

Ansell’s Forced Labour in Malaysia

Listen to the interview with Andy Hall on the AAWL  Podcast:

https://www.3cr.org.au/asiapac/episode/ansells-forced-labour-malaysia

27 Sept 2022 – A ban on imports made with forced labour requires stopping them at the EU’s borders: Heidi Hautala MEP

https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/news/article/eu-ban-products-made-forced-labour?fbclid=IwAR0R3bQZCgfKQtOatMc4ydnVXJogcsbIjdqB1P2bZ1gNJ7z_MB8hrWzdarU

The European Commission’s proposal on banning goods made by forced labour is a step in the right direction. But these products must be stopped at the border as opposed to withdrawing them after they have already entered the EU market

Heidi Hautala | Photo: European Parliament

Heidi Hautala

By Heidi Hautala

Heidi Hautala (FI, Greens/EFA) is a Vice-President of Parliament and member of the INTA Committee and DROI Subcommittee

27 Sep 2022

Recent statistics from the International Labour Organisation show that the number of victims of forced labour has been on the rise since 2016, amounting to nearly 28 million people worldwide. They are usually the most vulnerable: migrant workers whose documents have been confiscated and are forced to work long hours in unsafe conditions with little to no pay, often producing goods aimed at Europe.

It is high time for the European Union, as one of the largest trading blocs in the world, to stand among the United States and other global partners in taking firm action against forced labour.

In the US, the Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits the import of goods manufactured wholly or partly by forced labour. However, the rule only began to have teeth in 2015, when Congress closed a major loophole in the law. This has allowed the US Customs Border Protection (CBP) to initiate investigations and seize and detain imports suspected to be tainted with forced labour.

It is high time for the European Union … to stand among the United States and other global partners in taking firm action against forced labour.

The US example is encouraging. Working together with civil society activists, trade unions and the media, the CBP has been able to gather information on forced labour in global supply chains and block goods made by forced labour from entering the US. Given the importance of the US market, this has pushed many manufacturers to reform their operations.

For example, in 2019, the CBP banned the import of disposable rubber gloves manufactured by WRP Asia Pacific in Malaysia due to the company’s treatment of migrant workers. The workers were forced to pay exorbitant recruitment fees – a far too common practice that often leads to debt bondage and forced labour. A year later, under pressure, the company started a remediation programme aimed at repaying the recruitment fees demanded from the workers.

In her State of the European Union address last year, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared that her Commission would publish a proposal on banning goods made by forced labour from the EU market. This long-awaited proposal was finally tabled in mid-September, just one day before President von der Leyen was due to give her next SOTEU speech.

The regulation proposed by the Commission has the necessary elements to be an important tool for companies – alongside the EU corporate sustainability due diligence obligations – in cleaning European supply chains of human rights abuses. These two tools complement each other in crucial ways.

On the one hand, the corporate sustainability due diligence directive translates the 2011 UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into law. The obligations aim to level the playing field for companies, obliging them to trace their supply chains and identify risks for negative human rights and environmental impacts in order to prevent and mitigate them.

On the other hand, the forced labour product ban will set up a mechanism whereby products tainted with forced labour will be withdrawn from the markets. This product-based ban applies to all entities placing products on the market. And it applies to forced labour whether it takes place in supply chains inside the EU or in third countries.

The Commission’s proposal is encouraging and a definitive step in the right direction. However, it contains some key weaknesses that the European Parliament needs to address.

First, the system proposed by the Commission is retroactive and aims at withdrawing goods from the market rather than stopping them at the border as in the US. In other words, the proposed system will not stop goods made by forced labour from flowing into the EU, but it will catch some after they have entered the internal market. In its current form, the proposal lacks the powers that the US authorities have to hold shipments until it is proven that they are not linked to forced labour.

[T]he proposed system will not stop goods made by forced labour from flowing into the EU, but it will catch some after they have entered the internal market.

Secondly, the proposal does not include provisions for victims of forced labour. In its June 2022 resolution, the European Parliament called for the new instrument to require responsible companies to provide remediation to the affected workers prior to import restrictions being lifted, and the monitoring of these corrective actions in cooperation with civil society and trade unions.

Finally, the burden of proof in cases of forced labour lies with Member States’ authorities, and the bar is set worryingly high. Companies do not need to prove anything unless someone raises an issue. By the time under-resourced authorities find conclusive proof of forced labour, the product could already be on the market and sold to people.

It is now up to the European Parliament to strengthen the proposal so that we can be certain that no products tainted with forced labour enter the EU market. The ban will be a crucial tool, together with the corporate sustainability due diligence legislation, to strengthen corporate accountability and uphold human rights in global value chains.

Free Malaysia Today 28th Sept 2022: One-off intake sees 10,000 Bangladeshi workers arriving from this week into Malaysia in “Syndicate” Policy U-Turn for Government

Free Malaysia Today 28th Sept 2022: One-off intake sees 10,000 Bangladeshi workers arriving from this week into Malaysia in “Syndicate” Policy U-Turn for Government

 

Danial Azhar

 

September 28, 2022 7:30 AM

 

The Malaysian Palm Oil Association and the Malaysian Employers Federation have issued circulars confirming the one-off recruitment.

 

PETALING JAYA: Ten thousand Bangladeshi workers will arrive in Malaysia in batches beginning this week, according to a spokesman for the human resources ministry.

Khair Razman Mohamed Annuar, the ministry’s deputy secretary-general in charge of operations, told FMT this came under a government-to-government agreement for a one-off labour intake.

He said the 25 Bangladeshi agencies appointed for the recruitment of workers had nothing to do with the scheme.

“This one-off bilateral cooperation involves the recruitment agency under the government of Bangladesh,” he said. “It’s simply to expedite the intake of foreign labour.”

FMT has seen circulars issued by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) and the Malaysian Palm Oil Association confirming the one-off recruitment.

According to the MEF circular, 4,200 of the 10,000 workers are still available for recruitment. The ministry has allocated 2,100 of the total for MEF members.

Supplementary documents detail the recruitment process involving the labour and immigration departments, the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur and the Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Limited (BOESL), a government-owned recruitment agency under the country’s expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry.

In a letter to the high commissioner dated Sept 20, BOESL said the workers would be sent to Malaysia within two weeks.

The Malaysian Cabinet approved the one-off recruitment scheme on Sept 14.

Malaysia and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding last December after Putrajaya decided to appoint the 25 Bangladeshi recruitment agencies. Under that agreement, Malaysia received its first batch of workers last month.

The Guardian UK 25th Sept 2022 (3 Stories): Indonesians wait on UK farm jobs after paying deposits of up to £2,500/Analysis – Rapid expansion of UK visa scheme leaves seasonal workers at risk of exploitation

Colleagues, hope you are well.

Please do find copied below links and full text to the third installment of another three stories by Emily Dugan at The Guardian on the forced labour risks in the UK government’s seasonal worker scheme, with the focus on Indonesian and Nepali workers recently migrating to the UK.

I also include the 1st and 2nd installment stories below at the bottom of the message for reference.

Kind Regards, Andy Hall


Indonesians wait on UK farm jobs after paying deposits of up to £2,500
Exclusive: Workers say they have been charged to guarantee a job – which may be illegal – and have not yet had an interview

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/25/indonesians-wait-on-uk-farm-jobs-after-paying-deposits-of-up-to-2500


Indonesian man who paid £1,000 for UK farm job
Analysis: Seasonal workers left at risk of exploitation
A seasonal worker picking grapes
A seasonal worker picking grapes in Hampshire. More than 1,200 Indonesians have been placed on British farms this year by AG Recruitment working alongside Al Zubara Manpower. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Alamy
Emily Dugan
@emilydugan
Sun 25 Sep 2022 15.00 BST
Indonesians dreaming of working in Britain are understood to have paid deposits of up to £2,500 to a Jakarta agency to “guarantee” jobs on UK farms that have not yet materialised.

Labour experts say a deposit is considered a work-finding fee, which is illegal in the UK and Indonesia.

One worker told the Guardian he made a £1,000 down payment in July to a Jakarta agency to guarantee an agricultural job with a British recruiter, but he had not even had a job interview.

He said he was one of several people left unemployed and out of pocket on the hope of a farm job in the UK.

“We stopped working to be able to seriously follow the recruitment process for a new and better job. Now we are unemployed and our fate is increasingly unclear,” he said.

Official Indonesian government documents from late August suggest about 170 workers were stranded in Indonesia having been assigned jobs on 19 farms across the UK.

Most have been unemployed for several months, waiting on jobs they believed were imminent, and almost all have been given visas to come to the UK.

It is understood there are plans to bring some of these workers to Britain, despite it being so far into the harvest season.

It follows revelations in the Guardian that Indonesian labourers harvesting berries on a farm that supplies Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco had reported facing thousands of pounds in charges from unlicensed brokers in Bali to work for a single season in the UK. Brexit and the war in Ukraine have pushed desperate recruiters and farms to search for labour thousands of miles away.

A presidential taskforce in Indonesia is investigating the circumstances of the recruitment of fruit pickers after experts said the high fees alleged could leave workers at risk of debt bondage.

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority is investigating whether any UK laws were broken.

Andy Hall, an independent migrant rights specialist who investigates issues of forced labour in supply chains in Asia, said: “There is no legal basis either under Indonesian or UK laws to charge money to workers as a recruitment fee, whether it’s called a deposit or not. At the time a deposit is taken from a candidate, it’s an illegal recruitment fee.”

He said the risks of debt bondage leading to forced labour and the involuntary departure of a worker overseas against their will would increase significantly if deposits were taken from workers rather than prospective employers or clients.

The Indonesian workers already in Britain were supplied by AG Recruitment, one of four UK agencies licensed to recruit using seasonal worker visas. AG denied any wrongdoing and said it knew nothing about Indonesian brokers charging fees or deposits.

AG had no previous experience in Indonesia and sought help from Jakarta-based Al Zubara Manpower, which in turn went to brokers on other islands who charged exorbitant fees to the people they introduced, according to one Al Zubara agent.

So far, more than 1,200 Indonesians have been placed on British farms this year by AG working alongside Al Zubara, the Guardian has learned.

Of these, 207 came from Bali, where Al Zubara has no office and relies on brokers to supply candidates. A further 102 are from Lombok, where the reliance on brokers is understood to be similar.

The managing director of AG Recruitment, Douglas Amesz, said AG only went to Al Zubara for help with advertising and to establish the demand letter, which gives formal permission to recruit workers.

But adverts seen by the Guardian give Al Zubara email addresses for applications, and under local laws only an Indonesian-licensed manpower agency can recruit. Local official paperwork suggests Al Zubara undertook the recruitment, though Amesz strongly denies this.

Now an Indonesian government source says workers report Al Zubara encouraging them to pay deposits of up to 50m rupiahs (£2,500) to guarantee a job in the UK. Many are understood to be waiting to speak to AG.

One worker who had not yet been interviewed by AG or signed a contract said he had been encouraged by Al Zubara to make a down payment of about £1,000 to show his interest and guarantee a job in Britain.

He said he knew others who had done the same, and the Guardian has seen receipts for two such payments. “We know that plenty of candidates are crying every day, waiting for news from AG,” he said.

Amesz said: “The making of any form of payment, termed as a deposit or otherwise, to Al Zubara (AZ), or any party, in the form of a work finding fee is illegal both in the UK and in Indonesia and is not condoned by AG in any way. Our contracts with AZ specifically make clear that no such practices would be tolerated, and that AZ is to abide by local and English law. We also made clear to each worker directly, when I conducted the recruitment in Indonesia, that they should never pay for a UK job and to report any such approaches.”

Al Zubara charges £2,500 for farm jobs in the UK, according to documents seen by the Guardian. The fees include flights and visas. Multiple labourers said they faced thousands of pounds in extra charges from Indonesian brokers who brought them to Al Zubara and promised substantial earnings. Al Zubara has been contacted numerous times for comment.

David Camp, the chair of the Association of Labour Providers, of which AG is a member, said: “The GLAA’s responsibility is to conduct a full investigation and determine whether or not Al Zubara was supplying workers to AG. Al Zubara has no GLAA licence and it is a criminal offence to operate as a gangmaster without a licence or enter into arrangements for the supply of workers with an unlicensed gangmaster.”

AG has strongly denied any suggestion that AZ was contracted to recruit for AG. Amesz said he did the recruiting directly in Indonesia, and that “AZ were contracted by AG to carry out services in Indonesia to help us establish the demand letter (for the work pathway) and subsequently to provide local advertising via job boards. The contracts with AZ specifically made clear that they were not to subcontract the work to third parties, nor were they to apply charges to the workers.”

AG blamed Indonesian bureaucracy for delaying the allocation of work permits. Al Zubara had its licence to recruit to the UK temporarily suspended in the week after the Guardian published its first story.

AG had been intending to hire from Ukraine before war broke out and had to scramble for large numbers of workers in a new market at short notice.

Amesz said AG was aware of workers in Indonesia waiting to come to the UK and he had interviewed “all remaining workers to establish their individual circumstances”. He said he had interviewed candidates still in Indonesia about “what, if any, payments the workers have made and to who”.

Andrew Opie, the director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Our members are aware of these allegations and remain extremely concerned. They are urgently investigating possible breaches of the scheme with suppliers.

“It is clear recruiting seasonal workers has become more challenging, particularly with the loss of Ukrainian workers, and retailers will work in partnership with farmers, scheme operators, enforcers and the government this autumn to ensure all labour rights continue to be protected.”

A Tesco spokesperson said the supermarket welcomed investigations in both countries, and it was “vital that any illegal fees are repaid in full”.

’Our fate is unclear’: Indonesian man who paid £1,000 deposit for UK farm job – Intan says he paid more than a month’s wages from his old job to guarantee his place, but remains unemployed

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/25/our-fate-is-unclear-indonesian-man-who-paid-1000-deposit-for-uk-farm-job
Indonesians wait on UK farm jobs after paying deposits of up to £2,500
Analysis: seasonal workers at risk of exploitation
Grape harvest at a UK farm
One advert said wages in the UK would be up to £1,500 a month. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Alamy
Emily Dugan
@emilydugan
Sun 25 Sep 2022 15.00 BST
The Instagram advert boasted “Job vacancies United Kingdom” above an image of plump lettuces and the promise of wages more than double most desk jobs in Indonesia.

When Intan (not his real name) saw it on his phone in Jakarta this summer, he couldn’t resist. He was no farmer but, with a wife and children to support, the economics were unarguable.

The ad was from Al Zubara Manpower, a Jakarta-based agency working with a British firm, AG Recruitment to find people to come to the UK to work as fruit pickers.

Over the summer, AG brought more than 1,200 Indonesians on seasonal worker visas to farms supplying most major supermarkets. But not everyone who showed an interest has made it to Britain.

In June, Intan says, he formally signed up with Al Zubaara, and he says the Indonesian agency told him that if he “really wanted the job” he could make a down payment to “guarantee” his place. He paid about £1,000 and hoped that soon he would be on his way.

The money was a lot – more than a month’s wages in his decent job in Jakarta – but the advert said wages in the UK would be up to £1,500 a month, and earlier posts had promised even more.

He says he was told by Al Zubara that he would have a meeting with AG’s managing director, Douglas Amesz, at the start of August to get him signed up and sorted with a visa. But Amesz never came.

Intan had already quit his job and was eager to get going. But as the weeks went by, no job or meetings with British recruiters materialised.

Amesz said he was unaware of this situation and never had any plans to come to Indonesia in August. He also said that a work finding fee, “termed as a deposit or otherwise”, was “illegal both in the UK and in Indonesia and is not condoned by AG in any way”.

Intan says there are many others like him waiting to come to the UK. “We know that plenty of candidates are crying every day, waiting for news from AG recruitment,” he says.

About 170 workers that had been given visas and assigned to British farms were still in Indonesia waiting to go in late August, according to documents.

Amesz said AG was aware of workers in Indonesia waiting to come to the UK and said he had interviewed “all remaining workers to establish their individual circumstances”. He said “bureaucracy in Indonesia” had delayed work permits for many, and that he had interviewed them about “what, if any, payments the workers have made and to who”.

Yet Intam has never spoken to Amesz, suggesting that Al Zubara has continued to look for more people since Amesz’s last visit to Indonesia earlier this year.

Amesz said he did the recruiting directly in Indonesia, and that “AZ were contracted by AG to carry out services in Indonesia to help us establish the demand letter (for the work pathway) and subsequently to provide local advertising via job boards. The contracts with AZ specifically made clear that they were not to sub-contract the work to third parties nor were they to apply charges to the workers.”

AG was given a licence in Indonesia to recruit 2,000 workers, which may explain why Al Zubara continued to advertise even after 1,200 had already arrived.

Some British farms are understood to be nervous of taking on workers after the Guardian reported that some had described taking on debts of up to £5,000 to unlicensed foreign brokers. Others now need fewer workers after the hot, dry summer resulted in a low-volume harvest.

Workers such as Intan who have not yet met Amesz or any representative of AG still hope that a solution can be found, “because some of us really desperately want to work there,” Intan says.

He adds: “We stopped working to be able to seriously follow the recruitment process for a new and better job. Now we are unemployed and our fate is increasingly unclear.”

Analysis – Rapid expansion of visa scheme leaves seasonal workers at risk of exploitation

Emily Dugan
Experts say scheme’s rules urgently need significant changes to prioritise worker protection
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/sep/25/rapid-expansion-of-visa-scheme-leaves-seasonal-workers-at-risk-of-exploitation
Indonesians wait on UK farm jobs after paying deposits of up to £2,500
Indonesian man who paid £1,000 for UK farm job
Fruit on a farm
As farms have struggled to find workers, millions of pounds worth of food has gone to waste.Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images
Sun 25 Sep 2022 15.00 BST
As farms began to panic about a likely shortage of labour caused by Brexit, the seasonal worker visa was presented as a panacea.

Just 2,500 people came to Britain in a pilot of the scheme in 2019. But when the predicted shortage came to pass the following year, it was expanded rapidly, before an assessment of the pilot could be concluded.

About 40,000 people will come to the UK under the seasonal worker scheme this year, and there are increasing concerns that the hastily constructed programme puts workers at risk of labour exploitation.

When the government review of the pilot was finally slipped out on Christmas Eve last year, it had some concerning polling from workers. It showed 29% of labourers said operators did not adhere to contractual agreements, almost half did not receive a contract in their native language, and 15% said their accommodation was not safe, comfortable, hygienic or warm.

During the Conservative leadership race, Liz Truss signalled her intention to expand the scheme, pledging: “We will make it easier for farmers and growers to access the workers they need, with a short-term expansion to the seasonal workers scheme, while working with industry to address longer-term skills shortages.”

A recent report from the Association of Labour Providers said the Home Office and Defra had not engaged with industry experts in establishing the rules, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation.

David Camp, the chair of the Association of Labour Providers, said: “The scheme rules need significant amendment. Defra and the Home Office need to work with the industry, to work with experts in responsible recruitment, and properly define a scheme that puts worker protection at its heart.

“This scheme should be a model of good practice. In reality, it is making some workers vulnerable to exploitation. This needs to change, and fast.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made the shortage created by Brexit more critical. Ukrainians made up two-thirds of all workers arriving on seasonal worker visas in 2021, with almost 20,000 working on British farms.

When war broke out before the picking season was due to start and the number of Ukrainians using that visa route dwindled, recruiters had to look much further afield. There is a reported rise in farm workers arriving from Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Despite this, farms have still struggled to find workers. The National Farmers’ Union estimated recently that as much as £60m worth of food was wasted in the first half of 2022 because of a lack of pickers.

Indonesia to investigate claims fruit pickers in UK seasonal agricultural workers scheme charged thousands to work in Kent Exclusive: Taskforce begins work after labourers told Guardian they faced huge debts to unlicensed brokers in Bali https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/29/indonesia-to-investigate-claims-fruit-pickers-charged-thousands-to-work-in-kent?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
Emily Dugan
Published: 15:00 Monday, 29 August 2022
Date: Sun, 14 Aug 2022 at 19:27
Subject: Guardian 14th Aug 2022: Revealed – Indonesian workers on UK farm ‘at risk of debt bondage’ (3 stories)

Colleagues, hope you are well.

On 4th July 2022, information was disseminated about a group of Indonesian migrant workers departing to the United Kingdom under the UK’s seasonal temporary agricultural workers scheme. See: Hundreds of Indonesian Migrant Workers Departed to Great Britain https://bisnis.tempo.co/read/1608254/ratusan-pekerja-migran-asal-ri-diberangkatkan-ke-inggris-raya and for video see https://youtu.be/U_DurU_olTY

Concerns were raised about allegedly unethical and costly recruitment for these workers, potential forced labour risks resulting from debt bondage (due to considerable loans taken out by workers to pay recruitment costs) and inaccurate statements about job prospects and potential earnings in relation to this migration.

The relevant UK government departments including the GLAA, Home Office and FCDO (UK Embassy in Jakarta) were informed of these concerns, as were related Indonesian authorities responsible for safe migration.

Emily Duggan at the Guardian (UK) has conducted a detailed investigation into this issue and her three stories on this issue are linked here:

  1. Revealed: Indonesian workers on UK farm ‘at risk of debt bondage’ https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/14/uk-farm-workers-kent-debt-indonesian-brokers (14th August 2022)
  2. ‘My family need my support to eat’: how Indonesians came to work on a Kent farm https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/14/how-indonesians-came-work-kent-farm-debt (14th August 2022)
  3. Why UK farms are recruiting fruit pickers from 7,000 miles away https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/14/why-uk-farms-recruiting-fruit-pickers-from-7000-miles-away (14th August 2022)

It is hoped Indonesian and UK authorities responsible for safe migration and for combating forced labour and human trafficking will promptly investigate the allegations surrounding unethical recruitment and related labour and human rights violations concerning this situation as raised in the article below.

Please note, for a similar story written recently on alleged abuse of Nepali workers recruited in Nepal for work in the UK’s seasonal agricultural workers scheme, do also see https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/may/27/migrant-fruit-pickers-charged-thousands-in-fees-to-work-on-uk-farms-investigation-shows (May 27th 2022)

UK NHS strikes deal to poach nurses from Nepal to plug staffing gaps

UK NHS strikes deal to poach nurses from Nepal to plug staffing gaps https://mol.im/a/11137151

NHS strikes deal to poach foreign nurses from Nepal in bid to plug staffing gaps – despite being on a global red list for recruitment because of its own health worker shortages

By Emily Craig Health Reporter For Mailonline09:48 BST 23 Aug 2022 , updated 14:36 BST 23 Aug 2022

  • Up to 100 nurses from Nepal are set to work for NHS under a pilot scheme
  • UK Government has agreed to pay for flights and visas amid staff shortages
  • But unions have hit out at officials who are ‘over-relying’ on foreign medics

https://mol.im/a/11137151

Guardian Health policy 25th Sept 2022 – Plan to recruit Nepal nurses for NHS puts them ‘at risk of exploitation’

Guardian Health policy 25th Sept 2022 – Plan to recruit Nepal nurses for NHS puts them ‘at risk of exploitation’

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/sep/25/plan-to-recruit-nepal-nurses-for-nhs-puts-them-at-risk-of-exploitation

Ministers accused of turning a blind eye to potential danger of abusive recruitment practices
Shanti Das
Sun 25 Sep 2022 01.00 EDT

Plans to recruit nurses from Nepal to help plug shortages in the NHS will expose workers to an “unacceptable risk” of exploitation and should be halted until safeguards are in place, labour experts have warned.
The UK has been accused of pressing ahead with a hiring spree despite concerns about abusive practices by Nepali recruitment agencies, which are notorious for charging illegal fees that leave workers saddled with debt.
The government-to-government deal, signed last month despite Nepal’s status on the World Health Organization’s recruitment “red list”, will begin with an initial pilot involving about 100 recruits but could see thousands of nurses and other healthcare workers move to the UK from Nepal over the next few years.
The Department of Health has hailed the scheme as an “ethical” initiative that will allow for “managed” recruitment to plug UK shortages. A memorandum of understanding says workers should not be charged fees and that recruitment will be overseen by a Nepali government-run “implementation unit”. But critics accuse ministers of turning a blind eye to abusive recruitment practices in Nepal. They say safeguards are needed to protect workers from exploitation.
In May, a study by the Nepal-based research institute Social Science Baha found that about 40% of Nepalis who are interested in foreign employment seek the help of illegal agents. That same month, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that fruit-pickers from Nepal were routinely charged up to £5,000 in illegal fees for jobs working on UK farms as part of the government’s seasonal worker scheme. Many take out informal loans that they struggle to pay back.
Trapped and destitute: how foreign nurses’ UK dreams turned sour
Evidence gathered by the Observer suggests that agencies operating in Kathmandu have begun offering job-finding services to candidates seeking NHSroles – despite the pledge that no workers will be charged.
Facebook ads targeting Nepali workers, which were live on the platform last week, offered consultancy services, including application support and access to a “sponsor database” for candidates seeking jobs in the UK. A second ad offered “online coaching” for nurses and claimed to offer “the best route to the UK”.
Other ads suggest that recruitment agencies have been targeting nurses in Nepal for months, despite its red list status, which requires that active recruitment should not take place because of the potential effect on the country’s fragile health system. Nepal has 21 nurses per 10,000 people, compared with the UK’s 84 per 10,000.
Andy Hall, an independent migrant rights specialist based in Nepal, said “systemic corruption” meant that “in reality in Nepal there are illegal agents involved in every step of migration”. Many of those charging fees have links with UK-based companies, he said. Hall and other critics, including the UK Nepal Friendship Society, are calling for third-party oversight and the involvement of human rights experts to ensure recruitment does not result in worker exploitation. “For the Department of Health to just say, ‘Everything’s fine,’ is not acceptable,” he said.
In a rare intervention this weekend, the World Health Organization expressed support for practical safeguards, saying they were an “excellent suggestion”.
Jim Campbell, director of health workforce at the WHO, said: “We would very much encourage the UK and Nepal to take on board some of these comments and take all mitigating measures to ensure that there are protections for workers rights, protections from fees and protections from poor working conditions.”
He said having third party oversight or input from human rights organisations would “help the government understand the lived experiences of workers to ensure good practice is being followed”. “It would be a safeguard for the workers in this case,” he said. “You’ve got to ensure that that behaviour is not allowed to start and that if it is, it is identified immediately and eliminated from the bilateral agreement.”
Siobhán Mullally, the UN’s special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said the charging of recruitment fees could place “a significant burden on workers, leading to conditions akin to debt bondage”. “This is a concern in many sectors and it needs to be looked at in the healthcare sector,” she said. “The problem is often that we have words on paper but the guarantees are not implemented in practice.”
The Department of Health said it would be inappropriate for bilateral discussions to be overseen by a third party and that it would be engaging appropriate stakeholders during the implementation of the pilot scheme. No UK recruitment agencies would be involved in the initial phase, it said, adding that the process on the Nepal end was “an issue for the government of Nepal”.
Nurses often take out loans to pay agents which they struggle to repay.
Nurses often take out loans to pay agents which they struggle to repay. Photograph: MartinPrescott/Getty Images
The agreement is part of an international recruitment drive to address a shortage of 50,000 nurses and midwives in the UK. It is the first recruitment deal signed with a country on the WHO’s red list.
Pat Cullen, the Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive, said it was an example of the UK’s “over-reliance” on overseas workers and called on the government to “do more to invest in the domestic workforce”, including “paying nursing staff fairly to boost recruitment and retention”.
She added that the “government’s determination” to hire from Nepal despite its red list status was “highly worrying”. “Recruitment should be managed sustainably and steps taken to benefit both countries. The fact that we are taking nurses from countries with poor health infrastructure and chronic shortages is unforgivable.”

BBC News Indonesia 22nd Sept 2022: Indonesian migrant workers in the UK: ‘Third fastest fruit picker’, earnings are huge, but ‘costs to agents are so high’

https://www.bbc.com/indonesia/articles/c723le5qlgqo

See below google translation of the in-depth article by BBC Indonesia published today on, amongst other things, the hard work yet alleged exploitation of Indonesian migrant workers in the UK seasonal agricultural worker scheme.

Pekerja migran Indonesia di Inggris: ‘Pemetik buah tercepat ketiga’, pendapatan sangat besar, tapi ‘biaya ke agen begitu tinggi’ – BBC News Indonesia
bbc.com

BBC News Indonesia 22nd Sept 2022: Indonesian migrant workers in the UK: ‘Third fastest fruit picker’, earnings are huge, but ‘costs to agents are so high’

https://www.bbc.com/indonesia/articles/c723le5qlgqo

An Indonesian seasonal worker on a British plantation became the third fastest fruit picker, after just over a month of work. But his main complaint is that the departure fees he pays to distribution agents in Indonesia are “so large” that he is forced into debt.

“Astungkara, I am the third fastest fruit picker, the first picker gets around 100 trays , I only have 75 trays , I have not been able to surpass the experienced number one picker.”

Gede Suardika Widi Adnyana, a 20-year-old young man from Bali, smiled a lot when he shared his experience working at the Clock House plantation, Maidstone, Kent, southern England.

In less than two months of work, Suardika is said to have been able to compete with workers with long experience.
“Working on the farm is very exciting, the work is also not too heavy,” he said.

He is one of 318 Indonesian workers stationed on the plantation through one of Britain’s four authorized recruitment agencies, AG Recruitment. But the departure from Indonesia is arranged by PT Al Zubara Manpower Indonesia.

Suardika is one of 1,274 people who have been stationed in the UK, the first group of seasonal workers from Indonesia.

He had just graduated from a tourism diploma in Bali, when he heard there was an opportunity to work on a British plantation.

However, to go to England, Suardika had to borrow money from the bank through his uncle, amounting to Rp. 70 million, the funds which he paid in installments.

“My fee is IDR 70 million, I have to pay it to the agency , there is a dealer, to connect to the agency. He said it was for visa fees, fingerprints, KTKLN [Overseas Worker Cards] and return flights,” said Suardika when met by BBC News Indonesia journalist Endang Nurdin at Clock House Farm.

” There is no fruit picking training ,” he added.

At his current pace, says Suardika, he can set aside around £400 (around IDR 7 million at current exchange rates) net per week.

“My average salary is £500 (Rp8.7 million) per week, when I got a lot of fruit I got £670 more… minus the cost of accommodation, meals, personal expenses such as internet, I could save £400 [per week],” he said. Suardika after finishing her shift .

Salaries for seasonal workers in the UK are set at £10.10 per hour, on top of the minimum wage of £9.50 per hour.

Claudiu Netiou – the plantation mentor who coached Suardika – said that with the way he works now, he can become the fastest picker in the coming picking seasons.

“The fastest fruit picker is from Romania who has been working on picking blackberries for 12 years. Gede (Suardika) works in the same team and has only been picking fruit for over a month. I think in the coming seasons, he will be more advanced and can become a picker. fastest,” said Claudiu, who started his job as a fruit picker.

On British plantations, fruit pickers are usually divided into teams of about 35 people.

Workers pick strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples and plums, the fruits of which are mostly supplied to major supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

Gede Sudiarka borrowed money from the bank through his uncle for the departure fee of Rp. 70 million to the channeling agent.
© BBC
‘Indonesian workers’ commitment is a good example’

Ozzy, a worker from Tegal, said that many of his friends were ensnared by brokers.
© BBC
Ozzy Agista Indrawan, a worker from Tegal, Central Java, on the same plantation, admits that he is not as fast as Sudiarka, but the way he works, ensures that he “will be appointed as supervisor ” (supervisor) when he returns next picking season.

“When I started from 35 employees, I was in 27th place but now per week, number eight or 11 out of 35 people. The team is mixed, there are Romanians, Macedonian. The example is that the Romanian people work fast and have a good work ethic,” said Ozzy, who is working on a plantation for the first time.

Previously he worked seasonally in the factory and tourism sectors, respectively in Japan and Dubai.

By working the way he is now, says Ozzy, he generates “very big income, we get a net salary of £400 after deducting food and other things, we can get Rp30 million net in one month, that’s all I’m grateful for.”

Mentor at Clock House Farm, Claudiu, said Indonesian workers “have a high level of commitment and respect, unlike workers from other countries”.

“They are from other parts of the world, from different cultures, it is a pleasure to work with them. Their commitment is a good example,” he added.

Indonesian migrant workers in the UK: ‘Third fastest fruit picker’, earnings are huge, but ‘costs to agents are so high’
© BBC
Under investigation the costs that workers have to pay outside of visas and flights

These workers were recruited by AG Recruitment, one of the four authorized agencies in the UK, through Managing Director Doug Amesz, who spent six weeks in Indonesia to recruit in person.

However, departures in Indonesia are regulated by PT Al Zubara Manpower Indonesia (PT AMI), a migrant worker placement company.

“In terms of regulations in Indonesia, placement must go through the company (placement of migrant workers) P3MI, through an official agent. Al Zubara, one of the recruitment agencies that has permission from the Ministry of Manpower to recruit. The one who does the recruitment is AG, “said Didi Haryanto from PT Al Zubara.

PT AMI set a fee of IDR 45 million, including training costs and company fees, in addition to visas and flights.

Departure fees that workers have to pay to PT Al Zubara.
© BBC
Regarding placement fees, AG Recruitment in response to BBC News Indonesia said it was focusing its investigation into what fees workers pay, “other than visas and travel expenses”.

AG Recruitment also said they are “working closely with the Indonesian authorities directly to understand the problems arising from third party intermediaries as we are concerned about the welfare of the workers”.

The Ministry of Manpower, through Suhartono, Director General of the Directorate General of Manpower Placement Development and Employment Opportunity Expansion admitted what they called “alleged overcharging with the range that workers have to pay between Rp75 million and Rp85 million”.

However, the Ministry of Manpower said the fee paid to PT AMI was “Rp 45 million in accordance with the Placement Agreement (PP) signed by PMIs before leaving with PT AMI”.

Suhartono also stated that the placement agreement had been verified by the Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Agency, BP2MI, and was known by the Manpower Office of the district where the workers came from.

Oli Pascall, Managing Director of Clock House Farm said his party wanted to ensure Indonesian workers wishing to return to the UK paid the lowest possible departure fees.
© BBC
The hefty fees paid by the workers surprised plantations like Clock House Farm.

Of the approximately 800 workers from nine countries on the plantation, Indonesian workers are the most.

“As a plantation company, we Clock House Farm, use one of the four government-sanctioned recruitment agencies to recruit workers. This agency seeks workers from all over the world to work in the UK. We use one of those agencies and they have to show us they are doing their best to put workers on plantations in the UK,” Oli said.

“As we have just realized there is a fee that some workers are paying, we are working closely with recruitment agencies to ensure we find a solution to this new problem we have become aware of,” he added.

Ia also said that his party ensures sufficient working hours for workers.

“We provide at least 35 hours of work a week on average in the seasonal worker scheme,” said Oli.

Only 1,274 Indonesian workers from the request of 2,000 workers

Plantations such as Clock House Farm supply fruit to major supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
© BBC
Apart from Clock House Farm, Indonesian workers are spread across 15 plantations across the UK.

The UK needs tens of thousands of seasonal workers every year.

Recruitment agencies, including AG Recruitment, are seeking employment outside Europe amid the UK’s seasonal labor shortage due to Brexit as well as the war in Ukraine.

Before Brexit and the war in Ukraine, many seasonal workers came from Poland, Romania, Bulgaria.

Last year, of the tens of thousands of workers needed on plantations, two-thirds came from Ukraine as well as Russia.

Workers on the Harwill estate, Nottinghamshire.
© BBC
This year, recruiting agencies are looking from more distant countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, Mongolia, Nepal, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan.

So far, more than 1,400 Indonesian workers have been recruited to the UK but only 1,274 have been placed, a number that is still far from the demand for 2,000 workers from Indonesia.

‘The cost is so huge… finding money is hard’

Gede Suardika in front of the caravan, accommodation for the workers for six months.
© Gede Suardika
For Gede Suardika, so far his main complaint is the high cost. “In Indonesia, it is difficult to find money, and we are being charged quite a lot. If we work, we get work chemistry for a week .”

Meanwhile, Ozzy, who works on the same plantation, said that his friends, who also incur high departure costs, have difficulty paying off their debts.

“Those who are already married are hard enough to pay the price (Rp. 65 million), but those who are not married can save to cover the payment, from about two or three months they can cover the departure money,” he added.

Ozzy also said that there were a number of his colleagues “who were subject to brokers and some even paid up to Rp75 million and even up to Rp90 million”.

The BBC contacted at least 20 seasonal workers on other plantations who said their costs were between Rp60-Rp80 million and even more.

Agus Hariyono – from Temanggung, Central Java, who used to work as a property developer,including the one who paid a fee of Rp. 65 million.

Likewise with Pingkan Lydia Christine, a kindergarten teacher in Jakarta who works on the same plantation as Agus, Dearnsdale Farm, Stafford.

They say that by working about 10 hours a day, their income is “enough to cover” their debts for travel expenses.

A number of fruit pickers from Indonesia were appointed as supervisors in several plantations.
© BBC
A number of workers at the Mansfields estate, Middle Pett, Kent, also had a similar story and had to work long hours to cover departure debts.

Eni, who worked at Rock Farm, Ross-on-Wye, and her friends also had to spend about that amount.

This worker from Cilacap, Central Java, said that “there are even friends who from Bali spent Rp. 100 million”.

Eni said that her salary in this year’s pick-up season could be used “to pay for the capital” to leave and carry the “leftovers” when she returned to Indonesia.

Eni did not mention in detail the “remaining” money that he could bring back to Indonesia.

However, the woman, who worked as a tailor while in Cilacap, admitted that she had experienced a decrease in working hours because “the fruit harvest was starting to decrease”.

“Thank God I myself became a supervisor . So far there have been no complaints, only the working hours [reduced], it seems that all farms are like that,” said Eni.

The BBC contacted a number of farms including Rock Farm to inquire about the hours worked per week, but did not receive an answer until this news was published.

‘Training costs should be borne by the state’

Socialization of workers who want to go to England by BP2MI Manado.
© BP2MI
For many Indonesian workers, the cost of departure is the main obstacle.

The cost set by PT AMI at Rp45 million – a fund that includes training and company costs of Rp20 million – was criticized by Migrant Care, an advocacy body for the protection of migrant workers.

Didi Haryanto from PT Al Zubara said their training was carried out because “one of the requirements for placing migrant workers is certification, so we have to educate them according to the existing jobs “.

“For example, in agriculture, we cooperate with strawberry plantations that have minimum qualifications to know the system of planting, maintenance until harvest and post-harvest. That’s a requirement in Indonesia, so we did that,” added Didi.

However, workers in Indonesia who have arrived in the UK receive on-the-job training , including at Clock House Farm.

“They are not expected to receive training [in their home country] before they arrive. We provide all of that. So when they arrive, they go straight to work while being trained [and getting a salary],” said Oli Pascall.

Regarding the cost of this training, Suhartono, Director General of Binapenta acknowledged that PT AMI had job training at the Center for Development and Quality Assurance of Agricultural Vocational Education.

The average departure fee paid by Indonesian workers is IDR 65 million and many more.
© Clock House Harm
Who withdraws tens of millions of rupiah from the workers?

Anis Hidayah, Head of the Center for Migration Studies, Migrant Care, said that the placement fees and training fees imposed on workers violate the Law on the Protection of Migrant Workers.

“Based on Article 30 of the Law on the Protection of Migrant Workers, they cannot be charged. This is reinforced by BP2MI regulation No. 9, 2020 concerning free of charge for migrant workers,” said Anis.

“While Article 30 letter O, it is stated that training for migrant workers is provided from the central government at the expense of the education function … so that migrant workers do not need pre-departure training, moreover jobs in the UK already exist on the job training (training and paid), it should not and should be questioned because it violates if a fee is charged, it should be free (free of charge),” he added.

Regarding the cost of tens of millions apart from the Rp45 million set by PT Al Zubara, Anis accused the distributors in the area of ​​being “connected to the placement company”.

“Calo do not work independently but are connected and networked with placement companies whether formally or informally. So some of them are also company field officers to recruit people.

“Middlers are still fertile because supervision and law enforcement are not working,” said Anis again.

PT Al Zubara has not yet responded to the BBC’s questions regarding the fees charged by suppliers or vocational education institutions in the area involved in sending seasonal workers to the UK.

The cost to the UK is as low as possible

Strawberry picking job.
© Clock House Farm
The seasonal worker scheme according to the UK Home Office will last “until the end of 2024” with the aim of “ensuring plantation owners have the necessary support and labour”.

The Ministry of Manpower stated that a number of Indonesian workers adapted quickly and many of them were appointed as supervisors.

A number of them, including Gede, Suardika, Ozzy, Agus and Pingkan, said they would really like to return to British plantations next picking season, this time “to save money”.

Their work for these six months, they said, they used to settle the “debt” of high departure fees.

They expressed hope that they would only have to pay the visa and flight fees when they return to the UK next year.

“I want to go back because the work is not heavy, the salary is decent compared to our country,” said Suardika, closing the conversation.

For plantation owners, such as Oli Pascall, the workers’ desire to return is “very good news”.

“We want them back here because I believe there are great job opportunities in England for people from all over the world.”

“But we want to make sure there is a clear process and the lowest possible cost for these people to work on UK plantations,” Oli said.

(Original)
Pekerja migran Indonesia di Inggris: ‘Pemetik buah tercepat ketiga’, pendapatan sangat besar, tapi ‘biaya ke agen begitu tinggi’
22 September 2022
Endang Nurdin
BBC News Indonesia
Pekerja musiman Indonesia
Keterangan gambar,
Gede Suardika mengatakan kepada wartawan BBC News Indonesia, Endang Nurdin, dia harus membayar Rp70 juta ke agen penyalur sebelum bisa diberangkatkan untuk bekerja di perkebunan di Inggris. Ada pekerja lain yang bahkan membayar Rp100 juta.
Seorang pekerja musiman Indonesia di perkebunan Inggris menjadi pemetik buah tercepat ketiga, hanya setelah lebih satu bulan bekerja. Namun keluhan utamanya adalah biaya keberangkatan yang ia bayar ke agen penyalur di Indonesia “begitu besar” sehingga ia terpaksa berutang.
“Astungkara, saya pemetik buah tercepat ketiga, pemetik pertama dapat sekitar 100 tray (baki), saya cuma 75 tray, belum bisa melampaui pemetik nomor satu yang sudah berpengalaman.”
IKLAN

Gede Suardika Widi Adnyana, pemuda asal Bali yang berusia 20 tahun itu, banyak senyum ketika menceritakan pengalamannya bekerja di perkebunan Clock House, Maidstone, Kent, Inggris selatan.
Kurang dari dua bulan bekerja, Suardika disebut sudah bisa bersaing dengan pekerja yang sudah lama berpengalaman.
“Bekerja di farm sangat mengasyikkan, bekerjanya juga enggak terlalu berat,” katanya.
Ia adalah satu dari 318 pekerja Indonesia yang ditempatkan di perkebunan tersebut melalui salah satu dari empat agen penyalur resmi Inggris, AG Recruitment. Tetapi keberangkatan dari Indonesia diatur oleh PT Al Zubara Manpower Indonesia.
Baca juga:
Gaji TKI di Inggris sekitar Rp23 juta per bulan
Warung Indonesia di London: Jualan Nasi Padang, bakso, bertahan di tengah pandemi
Suardika termasuk salah seorang dari 1.274 orang yang telah ditempatkan di Inggris, kelompok pertama pekerja musiman dari Indonesia.
Ia baru lulus diploma wisata di Bali, ketika mendengar ada peluang untuk bekerja di perkebunan Inggris.
Namun, untuk berangkat ke Inggris, Suardika harus meminjam uang ke bank melalui pamannya, sebesar Rp70 juta, dana yang ia cicil pembayarannya.

Keterangan video,
Pemetik buah musiman asal Indonesia di Inggris: Terbebani biaya besar sebelum berangkat hi
“Biaya saya Rp70 juta, harus dibayar ke agency, ada penyalur, untuk menyambung ke agency. Dibilangnya sih untuk biaya visa, sidik jari, KTKLN [Kartu Tenaga Kerja Luar Negeri] dan tiket pesawat bolak balik,” kata Suardika ketika ditemui wartawan BBC News Indonesia, Endang Nurdin di Clock House Farm.
“Training pemetikan buah tak ada,” tambahnya.
Dengan kecepatan bekerja seperti sekarang, kata Suardika, ia dapat menyisihkan sekitar £400 (sekitar Rp7 juta dengan nilai tukar saat ini) bersih per satu minggu.
“Gaji saya rata-rata £500 (Rp8,7 juta) per minggu, sempat saat buah banyak saya dapat £670 lebih… dipotong biaya akomodasi, makan, biaya pribadi seperti internet, saya bisa simpan £400 [per minggu],” cerita Suardika setelah selesai shift-nya.
Gede Sudiarka.
Keterangan gambar,
Gede Sudiarka meminjam uang ke bank melalui pamannya untuk biaya keberangkatan sebesar Rp70 juta ke agen penyalur.
Gaji untuk pekerja musiman di Inggris ditetapkan sebesar £10,10 (Rp174.000) per jam, di atas upah minimum sebesar £9,50 per jam.
Claudiu Netiou – mentor perkebunan yang melatih Suardika – mengatakan dengan cara bekerja seperti sekarang, ia bisa menjadi pemetik tercepat pada musim-musim petik mendatang.
“Pemetik buah tercepat berasal dari Rumania yang telah bekerja memetik blackberi selama 12 tahun. Gede (Suardika) bekerja di tim yang sama dan baru memetik buah selama lebih sebulan. Saya rasa dalam musim-musim ke depan, dia akan lebih maju dan bisa menjadi pemetik tercepat,” kata Claudiu yang dulu mengawali pekerjaannya sebagai pemetik buah.
Di perkebunan-perkebunan Inggris, para pemetik buah biasanya dibagi dalam tim yang terdiri dari sekitar 35 orang.
Para pekerja memetik stroberi, rasberi, bluberi, blackberi, apel dan plum, hasil buah yang sebagian besar dipasok ke supermarket besar, termasuk Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, dan Tesco.
‘Komitmen pekerja Indonesia contoh bagus’
Pekerja musiman Indonesia
Keterangan gambar,
Ozzy, pekerja asal Tegal mengatakan banyak teman-temannya yang terjerat calo.
Ozzy Agista Indrawan, pekerja asal Tegal, Jawa Tengah, di perkebunan yang sama, mengaku belum secepat Suardika, namun cara dia bekerja, memastikannya “akan diangkat sebagai supervisor” (pengawas) saat kembali pada musim petik depan.
“Waktu awal-awal masuk dari 35 karyawan, saya dapat di tempat ke 27 tapi sekarang per minggu, nomor delapan atau 11 dari 35 orang. Timnya campur, ada orang Rumania, Macedonia. Yang harus dicontoh, orang Rumania, kerjanya cepat dan etos kerjanya juga bagus,” kata Ozzy, yang baru pertama kerja di perkebunan.
Sebelumnya dia bekerja secara musiman di pabrik dan sektor wisata, masing-masing di Jepang dan Dubai.
Dengan bekerja seperti sekarang, kata Ozzy, ia menghasilkan “pendapatan sangat besar, kita dapat gaji £400 bersih setelah dipotong makan dan lain-lain, kita bisa dapat Rp30 juta bersih dalam satu bulan, itu saja sudah bersyukur.”
Baca juga:
Nasib TKI di Inggris saat ‘lockdown’ – ‘Tak bisa kerja, utang untuk makan membengkak’
Rumah makan di London, satu dari ribuan bisnis yang mencoba bangkit di tengah resesi, akibat pandemi virus corona
Mentor di Clock House Farm, Claudiu, mengatakan pekerja Indonesia “memiliki tingkat komitmen dan rasa hormat yang tinggi, berbeda dengan pekerja dari negara-negara lain”.
“Mereka berasal dari belahan dunia lain, dari budaya yang berbeda, senang bekerja dengan mereka. Komitmen mereka merupakan contoh bagus,” tambahnya.
strawberi
Tengah diselidiki biaya yang harus dibayar pekerja di luar visa dan penerbangan
Para pekerja ini direkrut oleh AG Recruitment, salah satu dari empat agen resmi di Inggris, melalui Direktur Pengelola Doug Amesz, yang berada selama enam minggu di Indonesia untuk merekrut secara langsung.
Namun keberangkatan di Indonesia diatur oleh PT Al Zubara Manpower Indonesia (PT AMI), perusahaan penempatan pekerja migran.
“Dari sisi regulasi di Indonesia, penempatan harus melalui perusahaan (penempatan pekerja migran) P3MI, melalui agen resmi. Al Zubara, salah satu recruitment agency yang punya izin dari Kementerian Tenaga Kerja untuk merekrut. Yang melakukan recruitment adalah AG,” kata Didi Haryanto dari PT Al Zubara.
PT AMI ini menetapkan biaya Rp45 juta, termasuk biaya pelatihan dan biaya perusahaan, selain visa dan penerbangan.
biaya keberangkatan pekerja musiman Indonesia.
Keterangan gambar,
Biaya keberangkatan yang harus dibayar para pekerja ke PT Al Zubara.
Terkait biaya penempatan, AG Recruitment dalam tanggapan kepada BBC News Indonesia mengatakan mereka tengah memusatkan penyelidikan atas biaya apa saja yang dibayar pekerja, “selain visa dan biaya perjalanan”.
AG Recruitment juga mengatakan mereka “bekerja sama dengan pihak berwenang di Indonesia secara langsung untuk memahami masalah yang muncul dari perantara pihak ketiga karena kami prihatin dengan kesejahteraan para pekerja”.
Baca juga:
Kisah pekerja domestik Indonesia diangkat dalam buku
PRT Indonesia di London: menikmati kebebasan pribadi
Kementerian Tenaga Kerja, melalui Suhartono, Direktur Jendral Direktorat Jenderal Pembinaan Penempatan Tenaga Kerja dan Perluasan Kesempatan Kerja mengakui apa yang mereka sebut “dugaan overcharging dengan kisaran yang harus dibayar pekerja antara Rp75 juta sampai Rp85 juta”.
Namun Kemenaker mengatakan biaya yang dibayar kepada PT AMI sebesar “Rp45 juta sesuai dengan Perjanjian Penempatan (PP) yang telah ditandatangani oleh para PMI sebelum berangkat dengan PT AMI”.
Suhartono juga menyatakan perjanjian penempatan telah diverifikasi oleh Badan Perlindungan Pekerja Migran Indonesia, BP2MI, dan diketahui oleh Dinas Tenaga Kerja Kabupaten asal para pekerja.
Oli Pascall, Direktur Pengelola Clock House Farm.
Keterangan gambar,
Oli Pascall, Direktur Pengelola Clock House Farm mengatakan pihaknya ingin memastikan pekerja Indonesia yang ingin kembali ke Inggris, membayar biaya keberangkatan serendah mungkin.
Biaya besar yang dibayar para pekerja mengejutkan pihak perkebunan seperti Clock House Farm.
Dari sekitar 800 pekerja yang berasal dari sembilan negara di perkebunan itu, pekerja Indonesia adalah yang terbanyak.
“Sebagai pihak perkebunan, kami Clock House Farm, menggunakan satu dari empat badan perekrutan yang diizinkan pemerintah untuk merekrut pekerja. Badan ini mencari pekerja dari seluruh dunia untuk bekerja di Inggris. Kami menggunakan salah satu dari badan itu dan mereka harus menunjukkan kepada kami, mereka melakukan langkah terbaik untuk menempatkan para pekerja di perkebunan di Inggris,” kata Oli.
“Karena kami baru sadar ada biaya yang dibayar sejumlah pekerja, kami bekerja sama secara erat dengan badan-badan perekrutan untuk memastikan kami mencari solusi atas masalah yang baru kami sadari ini,” tambahnya.
Ia juga mengatakan pihaknya pihaknya memastikan jam kerja cukup bagi pekerja.
“Kami menyediakan setidaknya 35 jam kerja seminggu rata-rata dalam skema pekerja musiman,” kata Oli.
Baru 1.274 pekerja Indonesia dari permintaan 2.000 pekerja
Clock House Farm
Keterangan gambar,
Perkebunan seperti Clock House Farm memasok buah ke supermarket besar, termasuk Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s dan Tesco.
Selain di Clock House Farm, para pekerja Indonesia tersebar di sekitar 15 perkebunan di seluruh Inggris.
Inggris memerlukan puluhan ribu pekerja musiman setiap tahun.
Agen-agen perekrutan, termasuk AG Recruitment, mencari tenaga kerja di luar Eropa di tengah kekurangan tenaga kerja musiman yang dialami Inggris akibat Brexit dan juga karena perang di Ukraina.
Sebelum Brexit dan perang di Ukraina, banyak pekerja musiman yang datang dari Polandia, Rumania, Bulgaria.
Tahun lalu, dari puluhan ribu tenaga kerja yang diperlukan di perkebunan, dua pertiga di antaranya berasal dari Ukraina dan juga Rusia.
Pekerja di perkebunan Harwill, Nottinghamshire.
Keterangan gambar,
Pekerja di perkebunan Harwill, Nottinghamshire.
Tahun ini, agen perekrut mencari dari negara yang lebih jauh termasuk Indonesia, Vietnam, Mongolia, Nepal, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan dan Kyrgystan.
Sejauh ini, lebih 1.400 tenaga kerja Indonesia telah direkrut untuk ke Inggris namun yang telah ditempatkan baru 1.274, jumlah yang masih jauh dari kebutuhan 2.000 pekerja dari Indonesia.
‘Biaya sangat begitu besar… cari uang susah’
Gede Suardika.
SUMBER GAMBAR, GEDE SUARDIKA
Keterangan gambar,
Gede Suardika di depan karavan, akomodasi bagi para pekerja selama enam bulan.
Bagi Gede Suardika, sejauh ini keluhan utamanya adalah biaya yang begitu besar. “Di Indonesia cari uang susah, dan kita ditarik biaya lumayan besar. Kalau kerjanya, seminggu sudah dapat chemistry kerja.”
Sementara Ozzy yang bekerja di perkebunan yang sama, mengatakan teman-temannya yang juga mengeluarkan biaya keberangkatan tinggi kesulitan untuk menutup utang.
“Yang sudah berkeluarga cukup berat untuk membayar harga itu (Rp65 juta), tapi yang belum berkeluarga bisa nabung untuk menutupi pembayaran itu, dari sekitar dua atau tiga bulan bisa menutup uang pemberangkatan,” tambahnya.
Ozzy juga mengatakan ada sejumlah rekannya “yang kena calo dan ada yang bahkan bayar sampai Rp75 juta bahkan sampai Rp90 juta”.
BBC mengontak setidaknya 20 pekerja musiman di perkebunan lain yang menyatakan biaya yang mereka keluarkan antara Rp60-Rp80 juta dan bahkan lebih.
Agus Hariyono – asal Temanggung, Jawa Tengah, yang dulu bekerja sebagai property developer, termasuk yang membayar biaya sebesar Rp65 juta.
Begitu juga dengan Pingkan Lydia Christine, guru TK di Jakarta yang bekerja di perkebunan yang sama dengan Agus, Dearnsdale Farm, Stafford.
Mereka mengatakan dengan bekerja sekitar 10 jam sehari, penghasilan yang mereka dapat “cukup untuk menutup” utang biaya pemberangkatan.
petik buah strawberi,
Keterangan gambar,
Sejumlah pemetik buah asal Indonesia diangkat menjadi supervisor di beberapa perkebunan.
Sejumlah pekerja di perkebunan Mansfields, Middle Pett, Kent, juga memiliki kisah yang sama dan harus bekerja dalam waktu yang panjang guna menutup utang pemberangkatan.
Eni, yang bekerja di Rock Farm, Ross-on-Wye, dan teman-temannya juga harus mengeluarkan uang sekisar itu.
Pekerja asal Cilacap, Jawa Tengah, ini mengatakan “bahkan ada teman yang dari Bali mengeluarkan Rp100 juta”.
Eni mengatakan hasil gajinya dalam penempatan musim petik tahun ini, dapat digunakan “untuk membayar modal” berangkat dan membawa “sisa” saat kembali ke Indonesia.
Eni tak menyebut rinci “sisa” uang yang bisa ia bawa pulang ke Indonesia.
Namun perempuan yang bekerja sebagai penjahit saat di Cilacap ini, mengakui ia mengalami penurunan jam kerja karena “panen buah yang mulai berkurang”.
“Saya sendiri alhamdulillah jadi supervisor. Sejauh ini tak ada keluhan hanya jam kerjanya saja [berkurang], sepertinya semua farm begitu,” cerita Eni.
BBC mengontak sejumlah perkebunan termasuk Rock Farm untuk menanyakan jam kerja per minggu, namun belum mendapatkan jawaban sampai berita ini diturunkan.
‘Biaya pelatihan seharusnya ditanggung negara’
Pekerja musiman Indonesia
SUMBER GAMBAR, BP2MI
Keterangan gambar,
Sosialisasi pekerja yang ingin ke Inggris oleh BP2MI Manado.
Bagi banyak pekerja Indonesia, biaya keberangkatan yang menjadi ganjalan utama.
Biaya yang ditetapkan PT AMI sebesar Rp45 juta – dana yang mencakup pelatihan dan biaya perusahaan sebesar Rp20 juta – dikritik Migrant Care, badan advokasi perlindungan pekerja migran.
Anis Hidayah, Ketua Pusat Studi Migrasi, Migrant Care mengatakan biaya seperti ini dikategorikan ilegal karena seharusnya “penempatan tenaga kerja tidak dikenakan biaya.”
Namun Didi Haryanto dari PT Al Zubara mengatakan pelatihan mereka lakukan karena “salah satu persyaratan penempatan pekerja migran adalah sertifikasi, jadi kami harus mendidik mereka sesuai dengan job yang ada”.
“Misalnya pertanian, kami kerja sama dengan perkebunan stroberi yang punya kualifikasi minimal mengenal sistem penanaman, pemeliharaan sampai panen dan pasca panen. Itu persyaratan di Indonesia sehingga kami melakukan itu,” tambah Didi.
Tetapi para pekerja di Indonesia yang telah tiba di Inggris mendapatkan pelatihan sambil bekerja, “on the job training”, termasuk di Clock House Farm.
“Mereka tidak diharapkan untuk mendapat pelatihan [di negara asal] sebelum mereka tiba. Kami menyediakan semua itu. Jadi saat tiba, mereka langsung bekerja sambal dilatih [dan mendapatkan gaji],” kata Oli Pascall.
Menyangkut biaya pelatihan ini, Suhartono, Dirjen Binapenta mengakui ada pelatihan kerja oleh PT AMI di di Balai Besar Pengembangan dan Penjaminan Mutu Pendidikan Vokasi Pertanian.

Pekerja musiman Indonesia
SUMBER GAMBAR, CLOCK HOUSE HARM
Keterangan gambar,
Rata-rata biaya keberangkatan yang dibayar para pekerja Indonesia sebesar Rp65 juta dan bahkan banyak yang lebih.
Siapa yang menarik dana puluhan juta rupiah dari para pekerja?
Anis Hidayah, dari Migrant Care mengatakan, biaya penempatan dan biaya pelatihan yang dikenakan pada pekerja melanggar Undang-Undang Perlindungan Pekerja Migran.
“Berdasarkan Pasal 30 UU Perlindungan Pekerja migran, mereka tidak dapat dikenai biaya, itu diperkuat dengan peraturan BP2MI No 9, 2020 tentang bebas biaya bagi para pekerja migran,” kata Anis.
“Sementara Pasal 30 huruf O, disebutkan pelatihan bagi para pekerja migran disediakan dari pemerintah pusat dengan biaya dari fungsi pendidikan … sehingga pekerja migran tak perlu ditraining pra pemberangkatan, apalagi pekerjaan di Inggris sudah ada on the job training (pelatihan dan dibayar), mestinya tidak boleh dan harus dipertanyakan karena melanggar kalau ditarik biaya, harusnya free (bebas biaya),” tambahnya.
Menyangkut biaya puluhan juta lain di luar Rp45 juta yang ditetapkan oleh PT Al Zubara, Anis menuding penyalur di daerah “terkoneksi dengan perusahaan penempatan”.
“Calo tak kerja secara mandiri tapi terkoneksi dan berjejaring dengan perusahaan penempatan apakah secara formal ataupun informal. Jadi sebagian di antara mereka juga petugas lapangan perusahaan untuk merekrut orang.
“Calo masih subur karena pengawasan dan penegakan hukum tidak jalan,” kata Anis lagi.
PT Al Zubara belum menjawab pertanyaan BBC terkait biaya yang ditarik penyalur atau lembaga pendidikan ketrampilan di daerah yang terlibat dalam pemberangkatan pekerja musiman ke Inggris.
Biaya ke Inggris serendah mungkin
Pekerjaan memetik stroberi
SUMBER GAMBAR, CLOCK HOUSE FARM
Keterangan gambar,
Pekerjaan memetik stroberi.
Skema pekerja musiman ini menurut Kementerian Dalam Negeri Inggris akan berlangsung “sampai akhir 2024” dengan tujuan “menjamin para pemilik perkebunan mendapatkan dukungan dan tenaga kerja yang diperlukan”.
Kementerian Tenaga Kerja menyatakan sejumlah pekerja Indonesia beradaptasi dengan cepat dan banyak di antara mereka yang diangkat sebagai supervisor.
Sejumlah di antara mereka termasuk Gede, Suardika, Ozzy, Agus serta Pingkan mengatakan sangat ingin kembali ke perkebunan Inggris pada musim petik depan, kali ini “untuk menabung”.
Kerja mereka selama enam bulan ini, kata mereka, mereka gunakan untuk menyelesaikan “utang” biaya keberangkatan yang tinggi.
Mereka menyatakan harapan hanya perlu membayar biaya visa dan penerbangan saja bila kembali ke Inggris tahun depan.
“Saya ingin balik karena kerjaan gak berat, gaji lumayan dibanding di negara kita,” kata Suardika menutup pembicaran.
Bagi pemilik perkebunan, seperti Oli Pascall, keinginan para pekerja untuk kembali merupakan “berita sangat bagus”.
“Kami ingin mereka kembali ke sini karena saya yakin, ada peluang kerja yang bagus di Inggris ini untuk orang dari seluruh dunia.”
“Namun kami ingin memastikan, ada proses yang jelas dan biaya serendah mungkin bagi mereka ini untuk bekerja di perkebunan-perkebunan di Inggris,” kata Oli.

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