Cross border cooperation leads to licence loss
8th April 2014
Complaints from disgruntled employees in the UK to a Hungarian online magazine resulted in a Manchester-based gangmaster being shut down by the GLA.
A story appeared on the online magazine site Index.hu last summer featuring Hungarian migrant workers who claimed they had been misled, treated badly and subjected to poor working conditions by Incity Ltd.
The article also mentioned issues being experienced with a Debrecen-based outfit called Magnum One. Both companies are run by Bury-based businessman Jan Francek.
Incity Ltd, of Rochdale Road, has held a UK gangmaster’s licence since 2011 and Mr Francek had applied for a second licence for his Hungarian based operation.
As part of its normal checking procedure, the GLA contacted the police and labour inspectorate in Budapest to check if they were aware of any adverse reports about Magnum One.
A response was subsequently received from the Hungarian police, who established that the business had been named in a complaint from workers in the online article for providing ‘sub-standard accommodation’ and for ‘promising work that never materialised’.
The Head of Crime Prevention of the Hungarian National Police informed the GLA about the news article. Inspectors were dispatched to visit the Manchester company offices to speak to its workers and establish if the business was operating compliantly.
Soon after the visit, a decision was taken to revoke the licence of Incity Ltd, while the application for Magnum One was refused. Deadlines for lodging appeals against the decisions have now passed so the revocation and refusal are now final.
GLA Chief Executive Paul Broadbent said: “This is an example of the GLA’s determination and ability to use all available avenues and partners, working across borders with overseas authorities to protect vulnerable people.
“Thanks to our contact with the Hungarian Police and Labour Inspectorate we were able to identify issues with these two companies and take the necessary steps to prevent them from exploiting workers being supplied into our regulated sector.”
Ágnes Németh, of the Hungarian National Police, said: “The Hungarian Police encourage citizens to make use of their rights and report to the authorities inadequate working conditions and humiliating treatment. This ensures that employers receive a penalty for victim exploitation.
“Cross-border co-operation of the authorities also guarantees that crimes of trafficking in human beings are prevented and detected.”
The resulting inspection of Incity discovered Mr Francek, in applying for both licences, had failed to declare a total of 13 convictions under the Housing Act that had resulted in fines totalling £6,000.
Incity Ltd was also found to be transporting its workers around in minibuses that were not properly licensed or insured for that purpose. This breached a second licensing standard.
The GLA had major concerns about the business model discovered to be in place at Incity and proposed for Magnum One.
This required workers to sign up for accommodation provided by the company for a fixed period of time before they would be offered any temporary employment.
It was decided this was effectively a job-finding fee under another name. Charging for this service is unlawful and constituted a third standard breach.
Dr Krisztián József Járai, of the Hungarian National Labour Office added: “We provide information on the legal aspects of the employment issues workers from Hungary have to face.
We would advise them to visit the EURES network before going abroad, which may also inform them on other aspects. Links to our information services can be found on the website of the National Labour Office www.munka.hu.”
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.