Worst gangmaster in the UK?
11th August 2010
After a shocking catalogue of failures discovered at a Lancashire gangmaster business including paying workers well below the minimum wage, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority immediately revoked the licence.
The record failures totalled 242 points in non compliances, when 30 would be enough to revoke the licence. Mr Jose Rosa was the director of Plus Staff 24 based in Skelmersdale , but previously revoked gangmaster Maria Baptista was lurking in the background raising suspicions that Mr Rosa who used to operate as a driver for her was acting as a front to continue her exploitative ways.
A group of over 30 Latvian fruit pickers were subjected to appalling treatment that kept them trapped in the employment of Mr Rosa, the workers did not receive minimum wage and deductions left at least one worker owing the gangmaster money after a month of toiling in the fields.
If the workers needed money they were given loans with a repayment rate of 6%.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said:
“I am calling on all the authorities to use every power they have to ensure companies are operating according to, and within the law. Noone should be exploited in such a greed-driven and cynical way. These practices belong to history not in the 21st century.”
Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority said:
“This is a flagrant abuse of power over workers. When a human being has worked hard for a month and gets paid nothing after deductions and even owes the gangmaster money, how are they supposed to survive?”
“We have serious concerns over the involvement of Maria Baptista who was operating in the background of this business. She has had a GLA licence revoked in the past and we will ensure that any future attempt to obtain a licence will be subject to very close scrutiny. Any other gangmaster thinking of employing her would be well advised to think again.”
Issues uncovered included:
Workers were not paid the national minimum wage as charges for transport, worker registration scheme and accommodation reduced the wages to below the NMW.
Deductions from wages were not included on the wage slip but was hidden on a separate document.
Workers lived in filthy and dangerous houses without suitable bedding and any electrical safety documentation whilst having to use a toilet covered in mould.
Holiday entitlement and sick pay was not recorded or had not been paid to the workers despite being this being included in their terms and conditions
Workers were ferried to the fields in an uninsured minibus sometimes driven by an underage driver.
Mr Rosa lied to the GLA when he claimed a former revoked gangmaster Maria Baptista was working for him for free when a payslip for her was found.
The methods of deducting money from the workers exactly mimicked the methods used at Maria Baptista’s previous business.
Mr Jose Rosa also failed the competence and capability test to hold a GLA licence and has been deemed no longer to be fit and proper to hold a licence.
If Plus Staff 24 continue to supply workers or a provide a labour service without a licence to the regulated sectors, the GLA would take prosecution action.
Notes to editors
1. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) was set up to curb the exploitation of workers in the agricultural, horticultural, shellfish gathering and associated processing and packing industries.
2. Protecting workers is the key aim alongside protecting legitimate labour providers and protecting the tax payer by uncovering unpaid taxes.
3. The GLA regulate the supply of workers and labour services to any of the regulated sectors in the UK
4. A new useful tool has been created by the Association of Labour Providers to assist those working within the GLA licensing scheme. Additionally the ALP works closely with the GLA in its role as a key stakeholder. To find out more about this helpful tool visit www.labourproviders.org.uk or contact on 01276 509306 or firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Paul Whitehouse Chairman of the GLA is available for interview.
Public enquiries: 0845 602 5020
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