Italy: Muslim farmworkers told to drink liquids during Ramadan - 16 August 2009

Mantova. Muslim farmworkers in the northern Italian city of Mantua have been ordered to drink liquids during the hottest part of the day or face suspension. Many immigrant Muslim farm labourers from North Africa are employed locally to pick fruit and vegetables during the harvesting season, which coincides with the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, beginning next week.

The order is contained in a document drafted ahead of the harvest season and is intended to safeguard workers' health, according to labour unions and farmers' associations.

The document, which is to be distributed on local farms, warns that labourers working in the fields in "hot and humid" conditions, risk dehydration and heatstroke with potentially fatal consequences.

"Workers with a medical condition that puts them at risk and those working during particularly hot and humid seasons and times of day are obliged to drink water on the job. Those who do not face suspension from work, via a letter.

"The suspension with be either temporary or - if the worker persistently fails to drink - permanently," reads the document (...)