Picking on vulnerable migrants: precarity and the mushroom industry in Northern Ireland


This article examines precarious employment in the context of the mushroom industry in Northern Ireland. Migrant workers engaged in mushroom picking were interviewed in the context of wider research investigating forced labour in Northern Ireland. The research found that, while the boundaries between exploitation and forced labour are complex and difficult to discern, there was some evidence of borderline forced labour, according to ILO definitions. However, workers found themselves on a ‘continuum of exploitation’, where initial engagement with the prospect of decent work was superseded by increasing endurance of exploitative practices, brought about by unequal power relationships with employers originating in immigration status. This is examined in the wider theoretical context of precarity, of which precarious employment comprises a part.


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