GLA shut down Suffolk gangmaster
28th January 2008
A gangmaster who showed a total disregard for worker safety has had his business shut down by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).
Vilnius Recruitment Ltd of Leiston, Suffolk, which supplied workers to cut roses, pick cabbages and work in a duck factory has had its licence revoked with immediate effect by the (GLA) for failure to ensure the safety of the workers a total disregard for their welfare.
GLA officers found:
• cars used to transport the workers still uninsured – despite prior warnings
• accommodation charges that were unacceptably high. (Attempts to hide the charges by deducting part of the money directly from the workers own bank accounts after they had been paid, meant that these figures did not show up on wage slips.)
• Overcrowded accommodation
• Health and safety training and agreements not in place
• Gas certificates for the workers’ accommodation were not available • Agricultural minimum wage was not paid
• Overtime was not paid
• Workers did not receive holiday pay Vilnius Recruitment Ltd is the 46th gangmaster to have their licence taken away by the GLA.
Mr Neros Nerijus, director of Vilnius Recruitment Ltd, originally had his licence revoked (without immediate effect) in October 2007 and was allowed to continue trading during the appeal process. During this period Mr Nerijus had applied for new licence. Upon investigation, the GLA has not only found a callous disregard for worker safety and exploitation but the levels have worsened in certain areas. Chairman of the GLA, Paul Whitehouse, said this week: “Mr Nerijus is not fit to hold a GLA licence and showed a complete disregard for his legal responsibilities and his duty of care to the workers” When inspecting the business GLA officers were astounded to find that issues previously raised had not been dealt with and the situation was now even worse.
Paul Whitehouse, continued:
“This labour provider has shown an astonishing lack of awareness of the seriousness of issues that led to the revocation of the company’s licence”.
“The GLA is intent on cracking down on illegal work practices in every bid to protect workers from exploitation”.
“We shall be keeping an eye on this man. If he continues to trade in our sector enforcement officers will deal with him.”
Suffolk Coastal District Council assisted the GLA with inspections of the workers housing. More than 1,100 gangmasters are now licensed to operate legally in the UK and the GLA has uncovered worker exploitation and illegal activity that led to the revocation of 44 licences.
Notes to editors
1. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority was set up to curb the exploitation of workers in the agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and associated processing and packaging industries. It was set up following the death of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2005. The majority of workers involved in these industries come from countries such as: Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, India Pakistan and Portugal.
2. There are currently 1140 gangmasters licensed by the GLA
3. A gangmaster is an individual or business who: • supplies labour to agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and food processing and packaging • uses labour to provide a service in the regulated sector, eg harvesting or gathering agricultural produce • uses labour to gather shellfish. To be granted a GLA licence all businesses must meet the GLA licensing standards and the principle authority of the business must meet ‘Fit or Proper’ person criteria. Cross government checks are made on all licence applications.
4. It has been an offence to supply labour to the GLA regulated sectors since 1 October 2006, with the maximum penalty being ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
5. All licences that are revoked have the right of appeal including licences revoked with immediate effect.
6. Copies of any appeal decisions can be obtained from the appeals secretariat Gangmasters Licensing Appeals, Defra, Electra Way, Crewe, Cheshire CW1 6GJ
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