Derby Agency Whose Workers Used 'Forged Passports' Loses Appeal
13th November 2013
The GLA has taken the licence off a Derby-based labour agency after it emerged some of the workers it supplied to pick crops at farms in Lincolnshire were illegal immigrants using forged passports.
The licence of United Recruitment Services, of Glencroft Drive, Stenson Fields, was initially revoked by the GLA in February this year after the business was found to be in breach of 11 different licensing standards.
Managing Director Chander Shekhar Guru appealed against that decision, allowing the business to continue trading until the case was heard and concluded.
But at the Nottingham tribunal courts last week, Employment Judge Peter Britton upheld the GLA’s decision, dismissing Mr Guru’s appeal late on Friday afternoon.
While announcing his verdict, the Judge explained that when GLA inspectors had visited Mr Guru to inspect his business at the end of October 2011, serious irregularities had been discovered.
“Of the 79 workers on the books at the time, only 15 were legally allowed to be working. A great many of them were illegal immigrants,” he said.
He added that there were numerous entries in the worker files of employees, all from the Punjab region of India, who had been found to be working on ‘forged passports’.
“To quote Oscar Wilde - one might be unfortunate, two might be very unfortunate but the sheer number in this case cannot be coincidental,” added Judge Britton.
“What it shows is that United Recruitment Services was in the business of employing illegal immigrants wholesale.”
Earlier in the week the court was told that GLA inspectors had discovered numerous serious failings in the operation of the business that Mr Guru ran from his home address.
A breach of one critical Licensing Standard is sufficient for the GLA to revoke a licence. United Recruitment Services failed seven critical plus four non-critical standards.
As well as employing illegal workers, the company’s other failings included: providing inaccurate information to inspectors on a number of issues; creating a second set of timesheets during the inspection and keeping two sets of payslips, thus casting doubt over whether correct payment of tax and National Insurance contributions were being made.
The company kept no records to provide proof of payment of the National Minimum Wage or holiday pay. It also came to light during the hearing that, following the GLA inspection, the company had altered worker contracts that were already signed in order to appear compliant.
Mr Guru called his accountant, Mr IrfanYounis, of Paragon Accountants, Normanton Road, Derby, to clarify the issues raised about time sheets, salaries and pay slips.
However, he was unable to provide any satisfactory explanation and was warned about his flippant attitude in the dock. The judge later dismissed his evidence and described Mr Younis as ‘evasive’.
Workers at United Recruitment were transported in a minibus that did not have the correct insurance or Public Service Vehicle licence in place. Judge Britton held that taken alone, this would have been serious enough to persuade him the licence should be revoked.
GLA officers discovered money had been loaned by the company to workers but no records appeared to exist to document who was in debt, nor how much they owed.
On announcing his decision, Judge Britton said the licence revocation would be triggered at midnight on 13 December.
After that time, United Recruitment Services Ltd will not be able to provide workers for agriculture, horticulture, food processing or packaging or shellfish gathering.
Five appeals against licence decisions have been heard so far this year. The GLA has been successful in having the original decisions upheld in all cases.
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, forestry and shellfish gathering. bn
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.