ILO’s actions against the exploitation
of agricultural work in Italy

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Costantino Cordella

Summary: 1. At the origins of ILO: why Italy wanted to extend International Labour Standards to the agricultural sector. 2. ILO Conventions ratified by Italy on agricultural work: what happened from the constitution of the Organization to the Post-War period. 2.1. From the Philadelphia Declaration to the 1980s. 3. The policies of change and the recent ILO actions on agricultural work. 4. The Observations of the CEACR: compliance with Convention 129 of 1969 on agricultural inspections. 4.1. The Observations of the CEACR: compliance with Convention 143 of 1975 on the protection of migrant workers. 5. Recent regulatory instruments and their limitations in combating irregular work. 6. ILO’s good practices in the fight against exploitation and forced labour in agriculture. 7. Going down different roads: more openness to the private sector and more public control to combat exploitation.


In its first part, the paper offers a diachronic examination of the conventions on agricultural labour approved by the International Labour Organization and ratified by Italy. These conventions are examined by considering the changing purposes of the Organization, initially focused (in a mercantilist perspective) on ensuring economic development even for States with a predominantly agricultural vocation and, only later, oriented toward ensuring effective protections for workers. The second part of the paper deals with more recent implications on the subject. CEACR’s Critical Observations on the capacity of Italian legislation to ensure compliance with the standards of Conventions 129 of 1969 and 143 of 1975 are analyzed. Starting with an examination of the recent Plan to Combat Labor Exploitation in Agriculture, some of the causes that facilitate the activities of gangmasters are also highlighted and – drawing from comparative experience – possible solutions to combat them are proposed.


International labour law, agricultural labour, ILO conventions, labour exploitation, gangmasters.