New strategy seeks to target serious criminals who prey on vulnerable workers
3rd June 2013
Preventing workers from being exploited through forced labour – which could well involve human trafficking – is one of the cornerstones of the GLA‟s new plans and operations.
The intention to tackle this aspect of „modern slavery‟ was revealed as part of the authority‟s new strategy - Working in Partnership to Protect Vulnerable and Exploited Workers 2013-2016, launched today (June 3).
The strategy explains how the GLA will continue to regulate its defined sector – which covers from 400,000 to 700,000 workers employed nationally on farms, in food packing and processing and in the shellfish industry.
It sets out an approach to lessen unnecessary bureaucratic burdens on compliant businesses, allowing them to flourish and also explains how the GLA will target criminals and in particular those responsible for the worst excesses of worker exploitation. The intention is to create a hostile environment for those who breach regulations and legislation and seek to gain an unlawful advantage to securing contracts and providing labour.
In support of the new strategy GLA Chair Margaret McKinlay said: “The GLA mission remains as relevant as when it was set up in 2005 because the need to prevent worker exploitation and protect vulnerable people still exists.
“This strategy sets out how the GLA, working in partnership with other agencies, will tackle unlicensed and criminal activity and ensure that licensees operate within the law.
“Consumers want to know that all the workers employed in bringing the food to their table get a fair deal and that‟s what the GLA is all about.”
GLA Chief Executive Paul Broadbent added: “The GLA will work, jointly with other law enforcement, statutory and other partners, to target serious and organised criminals responsible for the worst excesses of worker exploitation.
“Forced labour in its most extreme form is modern slavery. It is one of the most abhorrent forms of exploitation we encounter and sadly we are uncovering and tackling more and more cases in the areas we regulate.
“I‟m delighted the GLA board has agreed a strategy for the future that has the authority‟s founding principle of protecting vulnerable and exploited workers as its over-arching theme.
“We are consistently involved in more than 80 ongoing criminal investigations and an increasing number involve evidence of collusion within and between organised crime groups. Some examples involve trafficking people into the UK on the promise of work, decent wages and a better life.
“Cases can range from those who pay to enter the UK and become financially indebted to their „master‟, through to those forced to work under threats of physical or psychological violence and, in extreme cases, human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour.”
Companies involved in tax evasion, breaches of regulations and other non-compliant or unlawful practises that impact on tax and the National Minimum Wage, will also come in for increased scrutiny as the GLA looks to work more closely with partner agencies. Food and Farming Minister David Heath said: “This government is committed to tackling serious and organised criminal activity.
If the GLA tell me by reducing the administrative burden on compliant businesses they can free up more time for inspectors to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation then that is what they should do.”
Under the new strategy the GLA‟s aim has been redefined as – „working in partnership to protect vulnerable and exploited workers‟.
This will be delivered through three key priorities – preventing worker exploitation, protecting vulnerable people and tackling unlicensed and criminal activity, ensuring those licensed operate within the law.
The GLA has six objectives:
Target, dismantle and disrupt serious and organised crime including the early identification of human trafficking.
Identify and tackle forced/bonded labour by licensed and unlicensed gangmasters.
Tackle tax evasion, health and safety negligence, fraud, breaches of employment and other law/regulations.
Maintain a credible licensing scheme creating level playing field and promoting growth.
Provide effective, meaningful engagement with stakeholders, thereby enhancing reputation.
Work with industry to recognise and address non-compliance without formal GLA intervention.
Added Mr Broadbent: “This strategy aims to address more serious offences and has been shaped by a number of contributing factors, including several key Governmental reports and reviews, ministerial statements plus strategic and operational assessments both nationally and internationally.
“We are committed to working with compliant businesses to ease the bureaucratic burdens they face, thus contributing to creating a level playing field and promoting national economic growth in our sector.”
GLA Chief Executive Paul Broadbent is available for telephone interview from 6am on 3 June. To request a slot or for further information please contact Paul Fearn, Communications and Information Officer, on 0115 959 7069 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors
1. The GLA operates throughout the UK and is a Non Departmental Public Body.
2. The authority was formed in 2006 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, forestry 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.
6. Nearly 1,200 labour providers are licensed by the GLA.
7. GLA officers are formally identified as human trafficking „first responders‟ - meaning they have the power to take action to remove victims from that location immediately.