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24 September 2014

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You are in: Hereford and Worcester > About Herefordshire > Migrant workers 5 - Georgi Georgiev's story

Barbed wire

Barbed wire

Migrant workers 5 - Georgi Georgiev's story

Slovakian guards kept constant watch on the thousands of migrant workers at S&A Produce, in a compound surrounded by barbed wire...

Bulgarian worker Georgi Georgiev is a carpenter by trade, and he worked as a strawberry picker during the summer of 2007 at S&A Produce at Brierley Court Farm near Leominster.

Georgi told BBC Hereford and Worcester how the guards - often Slovakians - kept discipline on the camp, which housed more than 2,500 workers at the height of summer.

He also said the image sold to him before leaving Bulgaria was hardly the reality that greeted him at the largest strawberry producer in Britain.

Military-style

Georgi said the guards are very rough and he was treated like he was in the army.

They also had to show their ID cards everywhere, and he didn't feel free in this environment.

He said he just wanted to get out as soon as possible, and every day people were leaving the camp.

The work he said was like swimming in the mud because of the weather.

Shattered illusion

Georgi said he came to the Brierley camp to find something better - a new beginning - after watching a short film about the work at S&A Produce.

On the video he saw nice caravans, people smiling and strawberries on table tops.

Metal buildings

Where the workers live

In reality he found the strawberries were on the ground, mud everywhere and something like small boxes to live in with four or six people.

Georgi claimed the conditions were not what he saw in the film.

S&A Produce statement extract

In response to Georgi describing their security guards as "rough", S&A Produce said in a statement:

"We have in operation a security system for our workers' safety and welfare and in effect have been the caretakers of 15,000 students/young people and we are pleased ay the overwhelming success of our safety record. We recognise that our workers are predominantly young people having fun and the atmosphere in our camps is one of social contentment and companionship, which is evidenced in part by the range of activities and the numbers of people involved in collective social events. Many of our workers return year on year."

In a statement, they answered Georgi's claims that workers are given the wrong impression of their Herefordshire camps through their publicity material by saying:

"Our induction video shows our people working hard but also having a good time on our campsites. All the people in the video are not actors but previous or present employees as many of our workers return year on year. It is very important that the expectation of future employees are aligned with what we offer and it is not in our benefit to mislead people."

Full statement

last updated: 29/11/07

You are in: Hereford and Worcester > About Herefordshire > Migrant workers 5 - Georgi Georgiev's story



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