Two convictions after waiters and waitresses shoved into cabbage fields to work.
14th September 2010
Two men, who mistreated their workers, have been convicted of breaching gangmaster laws. An investigation commenced in January 2008 after 8 Polish workers, wearing only sports clothing and trainers, were found drenched in a cabbage field.
The young men and women had arrived in the UK via an unlicensed agency in Poland and were given contracts specifying they would be working in the catering industry as waiters and waitresses.
As the workers believed that they would be working in restaurants they were not prepared for the Cornish fields in Winter where they were expected to cut weigh and pack 1200 cabbages per hour each in order to be paid the agricultural minimum wage.
The GLA found the workers in near freezing conditions in a muddy and wet field dressed in lightweight sports clothing that was not waterproof.
Paul Whitehouse, Chairman on the GLA said
“Both convicted individuals tried to delay the court process as much as possible, but we managed to get a good result for the workers almost immediately. They had only been in the country three weeks when we found them and it could have been a lucky escape. We will not allow workers to be treated in this way."
"Companies who use unlicensed Gangmasters break the law and demonstrate their disregard for workers in doing so. Severe penalties are likely where the offenders behaviour aggravates the treatment of the workers. It may in future also be treated as evidence of the new offence of forced labour.”
The farmer who's crop they were picking was so concerned for their welfare that he provided them with free food and clothing as soon as he was aware of their plight. Both the owner and area manager of Rapier Recruitment Ltd based in Slough, were found guilty of using an unlicensed agency in Poland to provide them with the eight workers that were placed into the Cornish fields.
Abrar ul Haq pleaded guilty to receiving workers from an unlicensed agency as well as supplying the workers through an unlicensed "umbrella‟ company and was given 300 hours community service and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.
Gary Richards pleaded guilty to receiving workers from an unlicensed agency and was given 200 hours community service and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs.
The GLA investigation uncovered a catalogue of failures by Rapier Recruitment Ltd, which included not training or supervising the workers who would receive 60p per crate of 10 cut cabbages and supposed to drive the tractor.
An initial denial that accommodation was provided which changed when evidence was produced to prove it was and many questions raised over the pay, lack of records and treatment of the workers. Four of the workers went on to be treated and paid properly working for other agencies whilst the other four decided to go back to Poland.
Notes to editors
1. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) was set up to curb the exploitation of workers in the agricultural, horticultural, shellfish gathering and associated processing and packing industries.
2. Protecting workers is the key aim alongside protecting legitimate labour providers and protecting the tax payer by uncovering unpaid taxes.
3. Extreme mistreatment of workers may constitute forced labour. A new forced labour offence was introduced in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland, in December 2009 – section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 20091 , with a parallel offence introduced in Scotland in August 2010 - section 47 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 20102 . Guidance on the new offence has been issued by the Ministry of Justice3 and the Crown Prosecution Service4 .
4. The GLA regulate the supply of workers and labour services to any of the regulated sectors in the UK
5. A new useful tool has been created by the Association of Labour Providers to assist those working within the GLA licensing scheme. Additionally the ALP works closely with the GLA in its role as a key stakeholder. To find out more about this helpful tool visit www.labourproviders.org.uk or contact on 01276 509306 or firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Paul Whitehouse Chairman of the GLA is available for interview.
Public enquiries: 0845 602 5020
Media enquiries: 0115 900 8962
3 http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/docs/circular-07-2010-coroners-justice-act-section-71.pdf; http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/docs/slavery-and-Servitude.pdf
4 http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/s_to_u/slavery_servitude_and_forced_or_compulsory_labour/index.htm l#a08