University of Sussex
(2012.12.01)_Simpson,_Donna.pdf (3.14 MB)

Salads, sweat and status: migrant workers in UK horticulture

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:21 authored by Donna Simpson
Drawing on workplace ethnography at a farm in the East of England and interviews with former participants on the UK’s temporary foreign worker programme, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme, this thesis contributes to understanding of the everyday work and living experiences of migrant workers in UK horticulture. In particular, it assesses the influence of supermarket-driven supply chains and of immigration status on these experiences. This thus reveals a labour process which is strongly shaped by structural factors, yet workers’ agency is also shown to play an important part. The analysis is organised around working and living spaces. It first explores the living spaces of the camp in which migrant workers were required to reside as a result of the conditions attached to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme. Such conditions, it is argued, give rise to both social and physical enclosure and thus to employers’ control of migrant workers. Secondly, the thesis focuses on everyday work spaces, illustrating how migrants’ work efforts are influenced by two features of production operating in UK food supply chains: just in time and total quality control. The role of surveillance and technology are shown to be important in habituating migrants’ bodies and their work efforts. The analysis of spaces of work also reveals how the piece rate form of payment and uncertainty over rates of pay are used to gain workers’ consent and intensification of work effort. Moreover, it contributes to understanding of the bodily effects of that effort. The thesis further explores leisure and consumption spaces away from the camp. These can be sites of stigma, racism and exclusion and simultaneously reveal the working of a transnational social field. The analysis of these spaces provides evidence of how immigration status and nationality can shape both migrants’ own identities and how others perceive them.


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