Focussed enforcement targets worker abuse: GLA launches Operation Ajax
3rd June 2008
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) is set to step up the fight against those who abuse workers today with the launch of Operation Ajax. Ajax will see the GLA increasing its activities with an 18-month programme of targeted enforcement, involving around 20 to 30 surprise raids throughout the UK where the GLA believes there is abuse.
The event was launched by the government minister with responsibility for the GLA, Jonathan Shaw MP. Also speaking were Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the GLA, Frances O’Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, and Judith Batchelar, Director of Sainsbury’s Brand. Jonathan Shaw said:
“I am delighted to launch Operation Ajax. The GLA has already achieved great results in the short time it has been in existence and by launching Ajax, the GLA is now determined to increase its efforts to leave no stone unturned to find the law breakers and abusers.”
Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the GLA, said:
“Operation Ajax is a long term commitment from the GLA to enforce worker rights and stamp out exploitation wherever and whenever we find it. “We know certain areas of the country have high gangmaster activity and we know from our intelligence that certain enterprises, gangmasters and their associates deserve looking at closely. “Based on this we have put together Operation Ajax to route out the rogues and catch the crooks – in short – if you are abusing the system, if you are abusing your workers – watch out – we’re coming after you.”
TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“The TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment found that two million workers in the UK are facing extreme exploitation, so we welcome the GLA’s continued commitment to challenging abuse of employment rights. “However, not all vulnerable workers are protected by the GLA. We believe that its targeted and effective approach to stamping out rogue employers should be extended to other sectors, such as cleaning, care homes and construction, where we know that extreme abuse remains rife.”
Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Association of Labour Providers said
“The Association of Labour Providers (ALP) is delighted to know the GLA is taking such a strong stance against labour exploitation. We firmly back moves to protect workers from abuse” Kevin Green Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) said:
“Rogue agencies exploit workers and under cut legitimate agencies. The vast majority of agencies work hard to comply with regulations and look after their workers. The success of the GLA is important for these legitimate agencies as well as the workers. Operation Ajax should take the work of the GLA to the next level and the REC supports the GLA’s targeted approach to root out what are essentially criminal enterprises.”
Since the GLA was launched in 2006 the authority has investigated worker abuse which has included:
• forced labour
• threats and verbal abuse against workers
• workers forced to pay illegal deductions from wages for unsuitable or overcrowded accommodation
• workers forced to travel to work in ‘death trap’ vans
• workers being paid below the minimum wage
• workers whose health and safety has been put at risk
• manipulation of worker documents Investigations have led to 57 revocations of gangmaster licences by the GLA.
Please access the GLA website at www.gla.gov.uk for all news releases noting the licence revocations carried out by the GLA.
Notes to editors
1. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority was set up in 2005 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.
2. There are approximately 1200 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 and 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. To date, 57 licenses have been revoked by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
7. Ajax is the Greek hero noted for his abundant strength and courage 8. GLA Chairman, Paul Whitehouse, is available for interview.
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