Large scale raids across Lincolnshire
15th October 2008
A major two part operation to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation and root out rogue gangmasters took place last week across Lincolnshire. In total the GLA deployed 12 officers for four days across the county.
During the first phase the gangmasters operating in the county fared well when compared to recent similar operations elsewhere in the UK. In 11 surprise inspections the gangmasters involved were able to demonstrate that GLA requirements were being met. Lincolnshire is home for 11.4% of all UK licensed gangmasters (137 licences), the 4 revocations in the county since April 2008 represents 14.2% of UK revocations (28).
As the government agency set up to protect workers in agriculture and the food industry, the GLA has put significant resources into chasing the rogues out of the county and hopes that the positive results seen during last week’s operation demonstrate that we are starting to win the battle against worker exploitation and abuse. Legitimate gangmasters across the county welcomed the GLA enforcement operation. They want to see the end of the rogues who undercut their prices and damage the reputation of their industry. Nobody hates a rogue gangmaster as much as a legitimate one.
The second phase of the operation involved four field visits at different locations across the county and here results were mixed. There were some encouraging results but in some instances we found that gangmasters still had not got the message. Some totally unacceptable practices were uncovered.
• Workers left without supervision and transport in a field at 6am to pick produce until they were collected at 4pm
• Workers paid well below minimum wage
• No holiday pay or sick pay
• No contracts, spelling out terms and conditions
• An untaxed van, with planks of wood and a mattress in the back used to transport workers
Investigations into the above allegations are continuing. Where appropriate we will pass the information on to the relevant government agencies.
Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the GLA, said:
“Lincolnshire has had its problems with rogue gangmasters in the past, but the good gangmasters and the businesses that use them have shown that if we all work together we can not only protect the workers, we can also stop those who make profits illegally at the expense of their competitors.”
“The results in Lincolnshire are very positive, but there is still work to be done to ensure vulnerable workers are not preyed upon by the unscrupulous characters that always seem to be lurking in the background.”
Mark Simmonds MP for Boston and Skegness said:
"This is good news for legitimate labour providers who continue to operate within the law. The latest raids are a direct function of the legislation that myself and other Members of Parliament worked so hard to see passed through the House of Commons. However the GLA, legitimate labour providers and workers need to be continually vigilant to ensure rogue operators are removed from the marketplace."
Notes to editors:
1. Photos of the van and operation are available on request.
2. 12 GLA officers took part in the operation inspecting gangmasters and interviewing workers. Workers were involved in picking and packing cabbages, cauliflowers, leeks and spring onions, packing salads and preparing plants in nurseries.
3. The main focus of the operation was around Boston and Spalding.
4. The workers picking and packing the produce were mainly of Indian, Polish and Lithuanian nationalities.
5. 137 gangmasters hold licences in Lincolnshire and 4 licences have been revoked in the county since April 2008.
6. So far, the GLA has licensed 1,201 gangmasters. 76 licences have been revoked (7 with immediate effect).
7. The GLA stepped up its fight against those who abuse workers with the launch of Operation Ajax in June. The operation was set up to increase the GLA’s activities with an 18-month programme of unannounced raids.
8. Ian Livsey, Chief Executive of the GLA, is available for interview.
To find out more about the work of the GLA please visit: www.gla.gov.uk
Public enquiries: 0845 602 5020
Media enquiries: 0115 900 8963/07825 797130