Fruit farmers seek to hire Greeks

Strawberry producers in Ileia, in the Peloponnese, are seeking to recruit Greek fruit pickers, rather than the migrant laborers they usually employ, in a bid to curb rising unemployment, Kathimerini has learned.

The 120 or so strawberry producers in northern Ileia are expected to submit applications to the Amaliada-based office of the state Manpower Organization (OAED) in the coming days for the recruitment of more than 4,000 fruit pickers and the majority want those jobs to go to Greeks.

“As there is unemployment, we want to hire Greeks to work our land,” Fotis Kyriazis, who leads the Yrmini cooperative, told Kathimerini. However, he expressed doubts about whether Greeks would take to the fields, noting that in the past Greeks had only been interested in administrative jobs or working as drivers.

“Working in the fields is much more tiring,” he conceded. It is unclear whether Kyriazis and other local farmers plan to offer Greek farm hands a higher wage than the average of 25 euros per day currently paid out to migrant workers.

In April dozens of migrant workers were injured when their supervisors opened fire on them following a dispute over unpaid salaries, fueling a debate about conditions on Greek fruit farms.

Hundreds of foreign workers, chiefly undocumented, uninsured migrants, eke out a living working on fruit farms in the Peloponnese. Virtually all of Greece’s strawberry exports are produced by farms in Ileia.