Active co-operation between the Bulgarian Chief Labour Inspectorate and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority
10th February 2009
Galab Donev, Executive Director of the Bulgarian Chief Labour Inspectorate, and Darryl Dixon, Strategy Director of the UK's Gangmasters Licensing Authority, agreed that the two state institutions will work closely together when monitoring and regulating labour companies that provide seasonal workers for the UK. The agreement was reached during a meeting held in January 2009 and initiated by the British Embassy in Bulgaria.
The need for such an agreement was proposed following incidents investigated by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority last year when Bulgarian seasonal workers in the agriculture sector reported that they were exploited in the UK. The incidents also involved cases of violation of legislation by Bulgarian intermediary companies and Bulgarian and British employers. Both the UK and Bulgarian Governments take the welfare of workers extremely seriously.
By working together they will more effectively prevent exploitation of workers, and illegal activities by employers, who attempt to evade compliance with UK and Bulgarian legislation. In order to prevent similar cases of illegal employment, to provide good living and working conditions and to guarantee fair pay, the two state institutions will sign an Agreement for exchange of information under Directive 96/71 on working conditions for posted workers, and workers who come to the UK under other schemes.
Paul Whitehouse, GLA Chairman, said:
“The GLA has proven it can effectively tackle labour exploitation in the UK. But there can be no hiding place for those who exploit workers. Our approach demonstrates this. The close cooperation between the GLA and the Bulgarian GLI will ensure exploitation is tackled at all points of the labour supply process. Enforcement with international partners will prevent and disrupt worker abuse.”
Roger Plant, Head of the Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labour at the International Labour Organisation, said:
"Forced labour, often a result of human trafficking from poorer to richer countries, is a cancer on labour markets worldwide. Combating it requires close cooperation between sender and destination countries, with labour inspectors playing a key role in both prevention and law enforcement, and organisations like the GLA leading the way through innovative practices. The UK-Bulgaria cooperation should be highly commended, as a model for other countries committed to stamping out modern forced labour".
Nick Kinsella, Chief Executive of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, said:
“Trafficking of people for forced labour is the core business of the UKHTC. The agreement between the Bulgarian GLI and the GLA, a key partner of the UKHTC, assists the creation of a hostile environment to traffickers. The Centre supports the GLA's work, and will continue to support initiatives such as this to ensure international cooperation is effective. At the heart of this agreement is the protection of the individual from harm.”
Notes to editors
1. From April 2008 to mid August 2008, 22 gangmasters‟ licences were revoked, compared to 33 from April 2007 to March 2008 and 15 from April 2006 to March 2007. In total 85 licences have now been revoked. Additionally one unlicensed gangmaster has been convicted, and another three cases are currently in court including one shellfish gangmaster.
2. 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‟.
3. It is illegal to operate without a licence, with the maximum penalty of ten years in prison and an unlimited fine.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. All licences that are revoked have the right of appeal including licences revoked with immediate effect.
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