In this paper, Ben Rogaly explores the causes of the dramatic increase of international migrants as the major labout-intensice horticulture in Britain.
In Britain, international migrants have very recently become the major workforce in labour-intensive horticulture. This paper explores the causes of the dramatic increase since the 1990s in the employment of migrant workers in this subsector. It locates this major change in a general pattern of intensification of horticultural production driven by an ongoing process of concentration in retailer power, and in the greater availability of migrant workers, shaped in part by state initiatives to manage immigration.
The paper draws on concepts developed in the US literature on agrarian capitalism. It then uses case histories from British horticulture to illustrate how growers have directly linked innovations involving intensification through labour control to their relationships with retailers. Under pressure on ‘quality’, volume and price, growers are found to have ratcheted up the effort required from workers to achieve the minimum wage through reducing the rates paid for piecework, and in some cases to have changed the type of labour contractor they use to larger, more anonymous businesses. The paper calls for further, commodity-specific and spatially- aware research with a strong ethnographic component.
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