Licence taken from 'incompetent' businessman
25th April 2014
A West Midlands gangmaster has been stripped of his licence after he was ‘untruthful’ in interviews and was found to lack both the competency and knowledge to run a business in line with GLA licensing standards.
Sanjeev Sahonta originally claimed to have left his job as a full-time telephone operator for electricity provider N-Power to look after the day-to-day control of Premier Resources in High Street, Rowley Regis.
But the company director, from Handsworth, later changed his story, admitting he was still working full-time on the phones and claimed he was running the recruitment business in his spare time.
When questioned, however, he appeared to know very little about the workings of the company - which provided temporary workers for harvesting vegetable and fruit crops for a number of farms in the Midlands.
Premier’s licence was revoked in December 2012 but the company appealed, allowing them to continue trading until the legal process was concluded. That appeal has now been withdrawn and the licence revocation finally took effect today (FRIDAY).
GLA Chief Executive Paul Broadbent described Premier’s case as another clear example of a company ‘playing the appeals system’ to delay its revocation and make extra money.
“This is a case that we are pleased to have concluded as it proved particularly frustrating for the GLA,” he said.
“Though it was clear the company had no chance of winning its appeal, through employing numerous delaying tactics it was able to eke out more time and make more money through operations that breached many of our standards.
“From speaking to Mr Sahonta it was clear that while he claimed to be responsible for the day-to-day running of the business, he had little knowledge of, or involvement in its operations and was merely ‘a front’ for other operators.”
Mr Broadbent said the GLA had serious concerns over how the current appeals system could be manipulated by businesses to delay the inevitable loss of their licences.
“We will be seeking a review of these processes at the earliest possible opportunity,” he added.
“I will be talking with the Home Office to investigate how we might change the current system - where lodging an appeal grants non-compliant companies considerable periods of grace to carry on flouting the rules.
“It is providing an unfair advantage over those legitimate businesses in our regulated sector that play by the rules. That is plainly wrong and should not be allowed to continue.”
Enquiries at three different companies, who employed workers from Premier, revealed that none of them had any dealings with Mr Sahonta. He also gave an incorrect answer when asked where one of his clients was based.
On inspection by the GLA, penalty points are accrued on a gangmaster’s licence – similar to those collected for driving offences. A licence may be revoked when a total of, or exceeding, 30 points has been reached. This is the value attached to the failure of a single critical licensing standard.
Premier Resources amassed a total of 146 points – gained from breaching three critical and seven non-critical standards.
Two of the critical breaches were for failing the ‘fit and proper’ and ‘competency’ tests, while the third was for failing to keep sufficient records to verify that workers were paid the National Minimum Wage. Premier has also made no returns to HM Revenue and Customs for PAYE or National Insurance in the past year despite the continuing supply of workers.
Other issues unearthed included: failing to provide any training for workers or the necessary protective equipment, providing illegal workers to farms and a lack of proper contracts for workers or agreements with labour users.
Press release issued by GLA Communications and Information Officer Paul Fearn. For more information contact 0115 959 7069 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
1. The GLA operates throughout the UK and is a Non Departmental Public Body.
2. The authority was formed in 2005 in the wake of the Morecambe Bay cockle picking disaster when 23 Chinese workers drowned on the sands.
3. The GLA licences companies that supply labour (gangmasters) to agriculture, horticulture, food processing and packaging and shellfish gathering.
4. Its main strategic priorities are to prevent worker exploitation, protect vulnerable people and tackle unlicensed and criminal activity.
5. Under the Gangmasters Licensing Act (2004) it is illegal both to operate as, or employ the services of, an unlicensed gangmaster.