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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Banana firm 'exploits migrants'
Bananas
Pratt's Bananas supplies fruit to leading supermarkets
A leading supplier of fair trade fruit has been accused of exploiting Eastern European migrant workers in the UK.

Workers at Pratt's Bananas in Luton, Beds, say they have to work excessive hours, six or seven days a week, and fear losing their jobs if they refuse.

A Polish woman who says she miscarried because of her duties is taking the firm to an industrial tribunal.

Pratt's Bananas said the welfare of its workers was of "paramount importance" and it had begun an inquiry.

The company supplies bananas to a number of leading supermarkets.

The woman who suffered a miscarriage claims bosses at the company's plant refused to put her on light duties despite knowing that she was having problems with her pregnancy.

Workers also said breaks were refused if they did not meet production quotas.

'Punishment'

The Polish woman, known only as Magdalena, said: "We don't have a break because it was something like punishment. When you [were] finished you [had] a break - if you don't finish, you don't have a break."

She also said that during 10 to 12-hour shifts workers had to ask permission to go to the toilet, and if that was refused then workers had to remain on the production line.

In a joint statement, Pratt's Bananas and its recruitment agency, Response Personnel, said the welfare and safety of their workers was of paramount importance and that they had started a detailed investigation.

Martin Smith, national organiser of the GMB union, says that worker abuse is "endemic" amongst certain industries.

"Our experience over many, many years is this is just endemic in not only the food production and distribution industries. Many other industries, if employers can get away with it, will exploit all their workers, not just migrant workers."




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