GLAA marks anniversary of Morecambe Bay tragedy
3rd February 2022
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) will mark the 18th anniversary of the Morecambe Bay cockling disaster later this week.
Twenty-three Chinese cockle pickers died after becoming trapped by incoming tides off the Lancashire coast on the evening of February 5 2004.
A further 15 cockle pickers survived and the disaster left an indelible mark on all those it affected.
Criminal gangmaster Lin Liang Ren was jailed for 14 years in 2006 after being found guilty of manslaughter and helping the cockle pickers break immigration laws.
His girlfriend Zhao Xiao Qing and cousin Lin Mu Yong were also jailed for their roles in the disaster.
The tragedy paved the way for the creation of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) in 2005, with a remit to target rogue gangmasters and create a level playing field for law-abiding labour users and providers.
To this day, anyone supplying workers into the shellfish sector, and across agriculture, horticulture, and associated processing and packaging, requires a licence with the GLAA.
More than 16,000 licence applications have been approved since the GLA was first established and there are currently around 1,000 active GLAA licence holders.
A total of 77 unlicensed gangmasters have also been successfully prosecuted by the GLAA across all four corners of the UK.
Five years ago, the GLA became GLAA, with additional responsibilities to tackle labour exploitation across the economy, and to investigate modern slavery where it relates to labour abuse and other offences.
GLAA Chief Executive Elysia McCaffrey said: “In this week of all weeks, it’s important to find some time to reflect and I will be thinking about the 23 lives so tragically lost in Morecambe Bay 18 years ago.
“Since our creation, one of our main priorities has always been to work with partners to prevent a tragedy like this ever happening again. This was our focus when we were the GLA and it remains a key motivation for me in leading the GLAA.
“Thankfully, there have been no repeats of the tragedy in February 2004. But we are not complacent. Shellfish gathering will remain one of the most important areas we investigate, in large part because of the direct threat to life the work brings if it is conducted illegally and dangerously.
“I would strongly encourage anyone to contact us if you believe someone is being exploited for their labour, not just within the shellfish sector but across the entire labour market.”
Anyone with information can call the GLAA’s intelligence team on 0800 4320804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.