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Odemira ‘greenhouse slaves’ demonstrate against working conditions

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After the huge controversy over the appalling living conditions of many immigrant workers brought to Portugal to service intensive agricultural businesses on the Costa Vicentina, the workers themselves have started to turn around – this time over how they are treated by their employers.

A Friday protest at the Sudoberry greenhouses in São Teotónio saw demands for clarity on payments; no more breaks from grueling 12-hour shifts and the right to take half an hour off for lunch.

A worker told CIS television news “this company just doesn’t listen…”. He compared its labor policy to that of North Korea.

According to SIC, the protest moved to the company’s offices when protesters realized the man in charge of exploration was at the scene.

“Their complaints extended to the cleanliness of the locker rooms and the canteen, but mainly concerned the intransigence of those who define the working conditions”, specifies the station.

A delay in the payment of wages “gave courage to the protest”.

According to SIC, Sudoberry is one of the largest “agricultural producers” in São Teotónio. Its greenhouses cover 50 hectares. It’s time to harvest the raspberries, the results of which are then shipped to supermarkets across Europe.

People who work for Sudoberry (almost invariably Nepali, Indian, Pakistani, Moroccan and occasionally Bulgarian workers) sign contracts that promise them €6.22 an hour, reports SIC.

They told the station they can’t see how it’s paid on their pay stubs. They want to know why they don’t receive extra pay for working on public holidays, for example. One worker said her pay slip for 26 days of work was the same as that of a colleague who had only worked 20 days. How had this been calculated? “The payslip does not seem to give the answers that (these workers) are looking for,” said SIC.

Sudoberry management “promised to provide answers in the coming days”, but “did not respond to any questions from SIC sent by email, or asked outside” of the company’s premises.

The conditions of immigrant workers have been notorious for years (click here). But they came to a head during the Covid crisis when Odemira became a “hotbed of infection” due to the fact that agricultural workers lived in such unsanitary and impoverished conditions (click here).

The Prime Minister and the President have gotten involved, and there are now protocols in place to see the situation change, even if it seems to be doing so very slowly (click here).

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