Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thanet Earth - Should Fruit and Veg be grown in Agency Culture

Unite (Transport & General Workers Union, in old money) are conducting a campaign to highlight conditions of migrant workers (as reported on BBC today), in this instance those who have the luck to work at Thanet Earth.

The suggestion by Unite, made in a recent press release, is that migrant labour is being exploited, I would point out, that such conditions are not exclusive to migrant labour unless they are also suggesting racial discrimination.

Assuming Unite's points are valid it, it leaves a bad taste, particularly given all the implied environmental benefits, we have previously heard in connection with Thanet Earth.

Thanet Earth is a multi-million pound project, and yet much of the staff are paid minimum wage, which may be also subject to deductions (such as transport to the remote worksite), and employed on a temporary basis, allowing termination at a moments notice.

Surely it is not beyond Thanet Earth, to offer fixed term or even permanent contracts to a majority of workers, rather than pay a premium to agencies to profit from hard working "temps".

A  couple of points to make, one I used to be a member of the T & G ( a long time ago)and also I happen to have some knowledge of working as a "temp" at Thanet Earth and have heard nothing in the reports coming from Unite which I'd discount as being too fanciful.

Still employers have to make profits, however I have to say, Labour had 12 years in office, in which temporary employment blossomed, and exploitation of migrants not unheard, it is to Labours shame, that they chose, to allow industry to ruthlessly exploit cheap labour during their recent time in office.

Labours much hyped minimum wage, isn't worth a toss, since casual employment, agency work, importing cheap labour, falling wages has in the last few years become norm, for many of us, and Labour know it.

Coming back to the main topic I attended a meeting recently, not because I hold to some radical agenda but because I was curious to see whether my own impression of Thanet Earth was objective. The gathering organised by Unite detailed evidence and set out to progress help to those working at Thanet Earth.

As a side issue have to say it was no surprise that Local Labour despite all their rhetoric about social issues, didn't send a representative to the meeting. Just me, Unite and some workers and "activists".

Thanet Earth understandably see things differently to Unite and the BBC have the following comment "Thanet Earth Marketing, which employs several hundred workers in peak season, says it carried out its own investigation when Unite first made the allegations in March 2010, which it says was concluded satisfactorily without any action.

Perhaps Thanet Earth have reason to be satisfied, still having worked there myself, I might suggest that Fresca Managing Director could contact me for another insight and I would be pleased to discuss concerns I had, whilst briefly working at the plant after it first opened.

For me, I didn't feel I suited to Thanet Earth and was fortunate to have the ability to walk away without needing to make an issue, still some are not so lucky such as those in a new country with differing customs, laws and language.

Unite have opened a reasonable debate and done what unions should do, which is to support working people, myself despite my frequent rants and raves, I have to say that I'm not an "activist" sort of person more a commentator so come on Thanet Earth sometimes even business has to take into account social consequences of the operating practices and in my view your "own investigation" may not quite hit the spot.

Published and promoted by L. Latham on behalf of on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, Flat 1, 2 Prospect Road, Broadstairs, Kent. CT10 1LD


  1. Wait for the writ Tony! thanetonline received a legal threat for publishing a link to the local news feeds.

  2. Tony, as an aspiring local politician I would suggest you are being a bit naive.

    Why have Unite suddenly alighted on a problem at Thanet Earth when, quite clearly if it exists at all, it has done so for a long time. Indeed back into days of a Labour government.

    The answer is simple. We have elections on 5th May and Labour and their union cohorts see an opportunity to displace Conservative and Liberal Democrat councils all over the country

    Thanet isn't usual strong on the union front, not too many major employers and a sizeable population of retired or non working folk. Thanet Earth is about the one local industry big enough for them to get their teeth into.

    Also check out where they held their last meeting and who publicised it. None other than the premises of those that run the Thanet Action Group, opposers of the Broadstairs community centre and excreta stirrers in general.

    The Broadstairs community centre is a long approved scheme, not something new, and, like Margate FC plans and Thanet Earth, has suddenly been brought back into the scheme of things to boost Labour prospects. Truth of such matters is totally irrelvant. They are simply whips with which to beat the present administration.

  3. If memory seves me well, Thanet Earth began recruiting its workforce using an agency in Folkestone! Many councillors admitted that this whole project "slipped under their radar" as they seemed mesmerised by the carrot of 500 Thanet jobs mentioned in the planning application. The reality of gangmaster style employment,the problems of low wages, insecure conditions of employment and a largely immigrant workforce should not surprise. Ask us in Acol what we think about the night time light pollution as well!

  4. A quick Google search shows that Thanet Earth LOST money last year - so much for the people before profits argument.
    As many have said before, Thanet Earth employs people who want to work regardless of ethnicity and we should not forget that their wages are spent in the local area.
    The problem here is that Unite want and need more members to prop up Labour and that is the primary reason for the outlandish claims of sweatshop labour. In this day and age, any supermarket supplier must achieve absolute perfection with regards to employment practices or else they will be dropped. If this has been a problem for over a year, how come none of the retailers or the authorities have found anything?
    It is also clear that Thanet Earth has asked the authorities to come in and check them out which is hardly the action of a suspect company is it?
    The actions of Unite will achieve nothing but damage the business. It is telling also that at the protests, only the Unite agitators were in attendance and none of the 300 "abused" workers. Surely it does not need explaining that if they succeed in getting the retailers to drop Thanet Earth, then it is jobs for the agency workers that will go.

  5. Suppose it depends on whether you wish ethics to be involved in any way when it comes to employment. I am no lover of trade unions, having lived through the chaos that they wrought in the Seventies and early Eighties, but I also think that we need to shed ourselves of the national image as the area of low wages. Until we can manage to raise the average local wage to anywhere close to the national average we stand no chance whatsoever of attracting the right people and firms down here. Until then we will only attract the sort of firm that picks cockles in Morecambe Bay. Yes, Unite have a political motive, Labour Party affiliation, but the only reason that 0245 and 0651 (same person) objects is that Unite is not a Conservative organisation.

  6. 9 13 I refer you to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights
    "Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are "in accordance with law" and "necessary in a democratic society". This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas.

    On this blog I express myself and as many will know both Labour and Tory I will and do on rare occasion make corrections or changes, if asked to do so, In this instance I refer to that which is in the public domain and offer a not unreasonable opinion based on Unite press release.

    2 45 If you think I'm naive so be it, I can live with that, however had you read my post, I did mention that certainly in the meeting I attended there was no one present from the Labour party, not in any declared way and this is something which deserves an airing and ought to transcend whatever narrow political or moral world you inhabit.

    5 41 Makes some good points particularly in relation to Acol and gangmaster type employment

    I suggest 6 51 the one way to judge the viability of Unite's documented accusations would be to treat yourself to a couple of days proper graft for one of the agencies at Thanet Earth instead of viewing the world with the Daily Mail specs.

    Still I must say I'm a bit intrigued that workers at the plant don't wish to identify themselves as having as being individuals highlighting concerns and or alleging serious misconduct, just why would that be?

    19 45 I could not agree more.

    Finally I will be moderating comments from now on, given the first comment, and for the benefit of the Tories amongst you, I've no wish to damage anyone but these things are in the public domain, also I did try to contact the firm this morning but apparently its unlikely that anyone will be available till later on Tuesday.

    As always I remind readers that if something needs correction please contact me,

  7. Cockle pickers???
    I think you will find that the Morecambe Bay tragedy was down to illegal employers, illegal immigrants, and unethical buyers of the shellfish.
    Hardly the actions of Thanet Earth. We all know that the UK retailers are the most powerful in the World and to get a listing with them is no mean feat. They demand and get the best of everything in all areas be it the actual quality or legal compliance. I say again, in over a year nothing has been found by any of the retailers or the authorities concerned despite Unites repeated claims.
    If you care to look around the local area, you will see a proliferation of BMWs and the like with foreign number plates. I dont believe that the put down workers on minimum wage could afford to run such cars with petrol at £1.35 a litre. Clearly they are getting more than minimum wage and good luck to them.
    I belong to no party and never have. What I object to is being told blatant lies and hearing the usual socialist worker rubbish spouted by Unite.
    I cannot be the only person who remembers that farming is a seasonal business with jobs in the summer and none in the winter. From what I can see, this business is providing the same as has always been in agriculture, seasonal and temporary jobs much the same as ALL of the other local farming based businesses.

  8. The question is why are they having to use agency workers in the first place.
    When Thanet Earth opened there were job opportunities galore but they found that the local populus was not prepared to work, yes the wages were not spectacular, but then what do you expect for picking fruit ???
    The local population at that time found it easier to stay sat on their bone idle rears and sign on the dole, well now things have changed and it's getting harder by the day to justify being bone idle if you are able to work.

    Thanet Earth like so many other employers in Thanet,should be defended and respected for bringing employment and opportunity to thios part of the world, the lazy bone idle types however should not.

  9. In reference to the article, it might be worth mentioning that there is a pharmaceutical company on the Isle of Sheppey that has temps working there on ongoing contracts and have been there years without offer of permanent work. Some have been dropped after three years and tell the agency the worker isn't up to the job.

    I believe that those who work hard deserve a decent wage and decent treatment.

    Oh dear! Shock! Horror! I guess that makes me a communist. Well judging by the brainwashed Right Wing comments on this site I must be.

    Incidentally, I once went for a job as a supervisor at a company under the umbrella of Fresca who are in a joint venture with Thanet Earth and was asked how I would work with foreigners who don't speak English well.

    But don't blame the low-paid foreign work force; they are always used to maximise profit whether foreign or not. That's how our economy works.

    At the end of the day it is the workers who really produce the wealth but are at the mercy of begging for work from the owners or Capital. Also, councils have to beg for investment on behalf of their constituents who just want to earn a decent living. But the owners of Capital never invest unless they think they can get the greatest return. Hence, low wages and poor conditions. Profits are the unpaid wages of workers! Think about it.

    It isn't really helped when workers for one reason or another think themselves as middle class (even though they still sell their labour) and turn on other workers or the unions who work hard to represent them because they have now lost all sense of compassion and humanity having spent years of reading The Sun newspaper and other Tory rags.

    I know that workers in unionised companies are treated better and more justly and their legal rights are looked after. My previous permanent job for nine years was in a non unionised factory that was bought and sold a few times then shut down in spite of a few scab workers employed at fairly cheap labour rates. The irony is that the workers there wouldn't join a union IN CASE MANAGEMENT CLOSED THE PLACE DOWN! Now I am a temp at the mercy of "hire and fire".

  10. If the UK consumer would accept food as it grows with slight blemishes and what the shoppers consider to be faults there would be no need to grow 'perfect' vegtables. We are sold what the supermarkets supply us and I feel for the suppliers who are at the mercy of supermarket buyers. As for Gangmaster culture Other people other than gangmaster recuits can appy for work get too Acol under their own steam maybe even in the BMW's mentioned. Thanet Earth is serving a need and the 'GANGMASTERS' or employment agencies are in turn serving a need. Thanet earth get there crops picked and make a profit the recuitment/employment agency suply thhe labour and in turn make a profit. The labour used gets paid the supermarkets get supplied the shoppers get there tomatos and as I see it everyone gets what they want untill that is UNITE pokes its nose in. Of course Thanet earth could pay more wages maybe the should but to maintain the price EVERYONE pays at the supermarket costs must be parred to the bone whilst maintaining an element of profit. I believe this to be the bussiness ehic that maintains a future for all paries involved. Whilst UNITE may see things differently they are not investing millions into anything to create jobs however well or badly paid they maybe. I can bet the Union bosses are on above minimum wages yet the choose to critisise firms that employ people. DONT SEEM RIGHT TO ME

  11. Anon 2.45 is so wrong. Unite started its action many month ago.
    If anybody is electioneering its the torys led KCC. Why else did they make sure that the Turner Centre was open just befor rthe elections. And why have they this week decided to subsidise a HS rail service to Sandwich and Deal to the tune of £151,000 knowing that Labour is showing a strong recovery in this part of Kent? By your standards Anon 2.45 they should have waited another 2 weeks.

  12. Contracts? why should they have them? Get rid of useless workers pronto

  13. apologies for delay in monitoring comments

    9 19 you have not got a clue as I recall being one of those to register on the first day when Kent Staff I think opened an office briefly in Ramsgate the queue was very long commented in the press at time, those in the queue like me were mainly British, all were aware of the low pay. Many British people do work for minimum wage, so I for one am surprised that the Staff are apparently mainly migrant, I'm surprised that staff who would be familiar with normal work practices, health and safety, aware of UK employment law, able to speak the language are not there in greater numbers, I wonder if there is another reason?

    I suspect 9 19 you may be one of those more deluded bonkers type readers of the Daily Mail, who does not retain any handle on the real world.

    I wonder how many times you and your ilk have pushed your treacherous clichéd little view of English working people not wishing to work, probably to a room full of those who like me are English and set alarms every night to go to work the next day, who unthinkingly indulge your petty witless bigotry by agreeing with you.

    Anyhow unlike 9 19 I have to be up early in the morning, in London for 7 and a twelve hour shift. I suspect 9 19 is some retired pompous twit from sales who has never done a real days work. Crikey this cliched bigoted way of thinking is contagious

  14. Mr " I employ 64" I would publish your comment if you identified yourself as you are making claims which lack authority and cannot be verified due to you being anon.

    I would like to make clear to all that some remarks made about British workers would if made about migrant workers be treated with the contempt as they should be when referring to brits

    Unlike you I have no problems identifying with the comments I make.

  15. This is certainly dragging the bigots out of the woodwork! Migrant workers driving BMWs, workshy Brits and all the other Daily Mail prejudices. Tony, you're 8:43 was spot on but you forgot to include the Colonel Blimps and other retired military types. All of them doubtless came from an era when companies were happy to employ people just to count paperclips or write meaningless reports that no-one read.

  16. Tony,
    you forgot to mention that your party have improved the taxation system for those earning under £10,000,surely an incentive for those people who would rather rely on the state.
    The Labour Government failed the lowest wage earners of this country,just received your election leaflet you have 3 well known candidates who I know have helped us here in this area, I will support you this time, sorry Sandra etc.

  17. Your 10:49 and the question at the end of the second paragraph. If the workforce are familiar with employment law and H&S requirements then they are probably not all that popular with some employers. Better to have a workforce ignorant of their "rights" ("rights" of course being one of the reasons that the country is going to the dogs, if you believe the right wing press) than to treat them properly.

  18. Just a quick footnote Tony, the Labour Group were at a TDC full Council meeting that evening that is why we were underepresented.

  19. Well there have been some pretty extreme views expressed on this subject though most of them, sadly, contain an element of truth.

    Good old fashioned working class traditions and pride are at times in short supply in this country and, yes, we have created a work shy under class who prefer not to work. No union can do much about that.

    Resent the comment about ex military types. Many of them have given much and some are still giving life or limbs for their country. Don't knock them for generally they have a good work ethic.

    Don't agree with the communist view. Did not do much for the USSR, unless you were one of the lucky elete, so it is a no better system than capitalism.

    In a nutshell, there ain't no utopia. You go to work, do your best to provide for your family and hope your lottery numbers come up. Live with it. Shit happens and its nobody's fault.

  20. Mike Harrison The meeting I refer to was 12th April, I suggest if you check your TDC diary you will find that you are mistaken, there was no meeting on that date. Like it or not Labour was not in attendence, although I have to admit I was there in personal capacity, having worked at Thanet Earth and being concerned for peoples welfare, I felt compelled to go.

    Still we know how shaky you and your colleagues are on social issues and even looking after your own party members.

  21. 6:25, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

    I hope you are not a typical example of the British mindset or we are in worse condition than I thought.

    Let me guess, corporate paper shuffler?

  22. I agree Tony, Local Labour don't care about anyone other than themselves and will use whatever is around to strengthen their position whilst not giving a monkey about the general population of Thanet. Look how they are trying to stitch up the good people of Northwood Ward -

    They removed Northwood's hardworking councillor in a dodgy selection process and kept the flaky Ms Dark who has a record of doing very little for her Ward in the last 8 years. That was not in the best interests of Northwood but Labour is promoting her for reselection on 6th May.

    Just wish more people in Northwood knew about it...Those that do are disgusted.

  23. Completely wrong, 7:51, working class background, retired soldier no less. Been around, seen some action, travelled but paper shuffler, never. Just shows you should never jump to conclusions!

  24. "I agree" i have Not published your comment although I agree just that its Not easy to prove flaky

  25. 07:51 What is typical of the British mindset? What you really refer to is the British illness.

    In 1945 the British caught an infection called socialism. They were very ill as a result but eventually had a partial recovery. Unfortunately, the bug was not killed off, but came back. In fact it came back several times and each time the British became more ill than the time before.

    Eventually it came back even more virulent than before and lasted thirteen long and dreadful years. By the time it went into remission the British were severely weakened and so infiltrated with foreign bodies that they will never be the same again. Indeed, one would never recognise them as the peoples they once were.

    If that is not cause for depression I don't know what is!

  26. 11 08 or Blimp I'm surprised you didn't also mention that glorious time, when for a brief time the sun shone from where it doesn't normally and mrs thatcher ruled the world and society was something that didn't exist

  27. And there was me thinking you are a Liberal Democrat, Tony. Did anyone say the Thatcher years were perfect? No, but they were a lot better than the Labour ones with no money and unburied dead. Progressive parties, someone is having a laugh surely?

  28. I just see a youtube video of Tesco demonstration he got his sensational shot of Tesco security asking him to leave BIG DEAL. I still dont understand what they are moaning about four hundred people earn a wage over there and now because some agitator has decided he would like to cause some bad press for Thanet earth he at no cost to himself jeopardises 400 peoples wages. If Tesco and the other supermarkets stop stocking the produce and Thanet earth closes How will that help the 400 people that are employed over there. We have seen Pfizer pull out and Thanet Earth can do the same. Political activists are looking for headlines and they won’t create one job. Leave Thanet Earth alone and let them create jobs because demonstrations like that could backfire and everyone could loose their job.

  29. Tony,

    the Labour party is all Hart! well at the moment anyway you might replace Sandy.

  30. 11:08, Socialism was an invention of the ruling classes as a means to absolute control, and you are a clueless fool.

    The British disease is the television, the majority of Brits, sadly, are in a state of mind controlled delusion.

  31. It is common practice these days to define as "casual" employees who have worked for the same company, rotored in advance sometimes for years. (witness a recent high profile attraction in Margate.)
    This allows employers to side step responsibilities like holiday and sick pay as well as other employment rights.

  32. Anon, I am not a clueless fool and the majority of Brits, as you call them, are not really Brits in my book. Maybe that coupled with TV and socialism is the problem, but you are the wise one, so you tell me.

  33. Don nobody is complaining about the jobs however what is an issue are the conditions.

    Also pay is at for most as I understand at minimum wage which to some might seem at odds with the multi million pound high tec greenhouse business.

    At the end of the day people deserve some respect however low their station in life and many of the comments made particularly those I withheld seemed to have difficulty distinguishing between people and cattle.

  34. The problem, 7:06, is usury central banking.

    Get rid of that, worldwide, and our problems are over.

    Television is about keeping people in the dark about what is really happening.

    For example, not a lot of people know that one of the reasons for the cancer epidemic is fake, crappy, food, lacking in proper nutrition... like the stuff grown on rockwool.

  35. Thanet Earth offers employment to anyone who is willing to work.

    Do you really think Unite is in it for the welfare of their members?

    Wake up please, Unite is a money making machine that needs its minions to contribute their hard earned wages to keep it going.

    I feel sorry for the ill advised people who are falling for Unite's sneaky tactics.

    Please remember, a business needs to make money. I would challenge the naysayers, who do they suggest is going to pay for their anti minimum wage dreamed up lifestyles?

    This country is in serious trouble because it's spending more than it's making.

  36. Tony

    Can you let more infromation about the campaign please. A contact in Unite would be good. As a Thanet councillor I would be very interest in finding out more

    Ian Driver