France: In Champagne vineyards, the living conditions of foreign workers are scandalous

In the Marne department in northeastern France, a suspected case of modern slavery in the vineyards of Champagne has come to light. A collective accommodation for agricultural workers was closed a few days ago by the prefecture. Foreign workers lived there in deplorable conditions.

The prefecture of the Marne has exposed the deplorable working conditions in vineyards. (Illustrative image) AP - Thibault Camus

By: RFI Follow


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Makeshift beds, an unsanitary building, disgusting toilets in the absence of cleaning, an electrical risk... The prefecture of the Marne relies on the report of the labor inspectorate to justify the closure of collective accommodation of pickers in Nesle-le-Repons.

During the inspection carried out on 14 September, about sixty beds were discovered in these accommodations, mostly occupied by workers from West Africa (Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal). The inspection also revealed that they did not have an employment contract.

If the name of the service provider who housed these seasonal workers is known, that of the Champagne house that employed them is not. The workers did not know the name of their boss. An investigation has been opened for human trafficking. The prefecture also ordered the owner, who is also the employer of the workers, to take charge of the relocation of the employees present on the sites concerned.

José Blanco, general secretary of the CGT champagne interunion, lashed out at AFP for the "omerta" that reigns "in the world of champagne". "People are exploited" but "everyone turns a blind eye because it is the most expensive grape in the world," he regretted. "On the label, in the composition of champagne, we will have to put the percentage of human misery," mocked José Blanco.

In the same department of the Marne, it is the working conditions of the pickers that caused a stir a few days ago. The prefecture confirmed the death of at least three of them in the vineyards, during the episode of high heat at the beginning of the month. Again, an investigation is ongoing. In past years, there have already been cases of modern slavery in the Champagne vineyards, sometimes punished by prison as in 2020.

Modern slavery in Champagne: "Even the smugglers treated us better" via @libe

— CCEM - Committee Against Modern Slavery (@CCEM_France) July 7, 2020

" READ ALSO Human trafficking in Champagne: prison for the managers of a wine company

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  • France
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