THE Church of England has launched an app aimed at preventing farm workers’ exploitation.
The Farm Work Welfare app was developed by the Clewer Initiative, the Church’s scheme for combating modern slavery (Comment, 3 July). Aimed at the thousands of workers who assist every year with the harvest of fruit and vegetables on UK farms, the app will supply information on employment rights in eight languages, including English.
It will also give advice for farmers and growers who use third-party labour providers and recruitment agencies, by listing those agencies that are licensed, and providing rules about document verification and workers’ rights.
Workers and employers can highlight concerns about labour exploitation and look for help through the app; the information is processed by the Modern Slavery Helpline. It is designed to address a problem that is not new. Last August, a Worcestershire farmer, Derek Wilkinson, expressed horror and regret after discovering that his workforce contained victims from a network of slaves, even though he had used a licensed recruitment agency.
The former Bishop of Derby Dr Alastair Redfern, who chairs the Clewer Initiative, said: “Victims of modern slavery are often kept by highly organised, ruthless criminal gangs in remote locations. These gangs pose as legitimate labour providers offering a ready supply of workers to farmers and growers, who may not always spot the signs of exploitation.
“The app is easy to use and will help farmers and growers avoid unwittingly using unlicensed and criminal labour providers. For pickers who may not be familiar with UK worker rights, it will provide vital information, in seven languages, on what they can expect.”
The First Church Estates Commissioner, Loretta Minghella, said: “We are delighted to support the Clewer Initiative in the creation of the Farm Work Welfare app, which we hope will lead to greater safety for those working in this sector. As an ethical investor, the Church Commissioners for England are committed to supporting the eradication of modern slavery and labour exploitation, which has no place in society.
“We welcome and actively encourage the use of this app by those working or employing in this sector, across our rural portfolio, and beyond.”