Abuse of Vulnerable Workers in the East Midlands
4th February 2009
Major new initiative in Nottinghamshire
On the 5th anniversary of the Morecambe Bay Tragedy where 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned due to the criminal behaviour of a ruthless gangmaster, Nottinghamshire will be the first County Council to team up with the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to launch a major new initiative to target rogue gangmasters and deal with the community issues they create.
Whilst strong action is being taken against the rogue gangmasters, the knock on effects to the local communities are now being considered. Those living near the houses packed with exploited workers, sharing the roads with dangerously unfit minibuses and local shops not seeing the benefits of workers being properly paid for the work they do are the most likely to benefit from the new initiative.
Council staff working in these areas and receiving complaints from residents about these issues can share this information with the GLA and if the issues are connected to gangmaster activity the GLA can investigate and help the workers which in turn will help the local community. Nottinghamshire County Council is at the forefront of tackling the abuse of vulnerable workers.
The Council and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority have signed an agreement to work together to identify potential abuse of vulnerable workers, often migrant workers, in agriculture and the food and drink processing and packaging industries. Councils have a major role in stamping out abuse and their staff on the ground are the key to identifying potential abuse.
Councillor Glynn Gilfoyle, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Partnerships said:
”By working together, we can help reduce the numbers of workers who are exploited in Nottinghamshire, which will help to protect both them and our local communities.”
Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority said:
“This initiative is common sense, Nottinghamshire County Council want to resolve community problems and the GLA needs information about exploited workers. Councils have significant front-line contact with migrant workers, whether though Trading Standards activity, licensing of Houses of Multiple Occupation, or emergency welfare support. Working together we can tackle exploitation and resolve problematic issues within the community”
"Abuse of vulnerable workers could be happening anywhere, in any county and to anyone. Both Nottinghamshire County Council and ourselves detest this abuse and we will combine to stamp it out effectively and without compromise in Nottinghamshire.
"There can be no hiding place for the abusive gangmaster and there can be no tolerance of the abuse of vulnerable workers in the county.”
Last year the GLA revoked a record number of licenses from gangmasters and the GLA has now toughened up the enforcement of worker's rights and the standards gangmasters are expect to meet.
The abuse of vulnerable workers also undercuts the legitimate business, operating within the law. We are determined that good business will not be undercut by the rogue businesses who use unlicensed gangmasters and exploit the workers. The work of the Trading Standards Officers at Nottinghamshire County Council will see more crucial intelligence flowing into the GLA. This intelligence is the key to stamping out the abusive gangmasters.
Notes to Editors
1. On February 5th, 2004, 23 Chinese cockle pickers lost their lives by drowning due to the behaviour of a ruthless and criminal gangmaster. Sickeningly, two of the bodies have still not been recovered. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority had been stamping out abusive practices in agriculture, shellfish gathering, and food and drink processing and packaging every since.
2. The GLA revoked the licence of Nottingham based gangmaster J K Staff Limited in January 2009
3. The GLA was set up to protect workers in agriculture, shellfish gathering and food processing and packaging. There are approximately 1,200 gangmasters licensed by the GLA. To get and keep a licence, gangmasters must be „fit and proper‟.
4. It is illegal to operate without a licence, with the maximum penalty of ten years in prison and an unlimited fine.
5. The GLA launched Operation Ajax on 2 June 2008. This will see the Authority increasing its activities across the UK with an 18-month programme of targeted enforcement, involving unannounced raids.
6. 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.
7. All licences that are revoked have the right of appeal including licences revoked with immediate effect.
8. GLA Chairman, Paul Whitehouse, is available for interview.
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