GLA checks on SAWS farms
14th April 2014
The GLA contacted or visited more than 300 farms last week that have previously employed migrant workers from Romania and Bulgaria through a Government scheme that was scrapped earlier this year.
Under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS), 21,250 nationals from these two countries were permitted to work for UK fruit and vegetable growers on a temporary basis each year.
However, SAWS ended on 31 December last year when it was made redundant by a relaxation of the immigration laws that permitted Romanian and Bulgarians to work legally in the UK.
GLA Chief Executive Paul Broadbent said: “It was important for the GLA to get a handle on who had filled this substantial number of temporary posts and to make sure no unlicensed labour providers had moved in.
“Throughout last week, GLA officers have been contacting farms who participated in the scheme last year to find out where and from whom they have recruited workers for the current season.
“The response from farmers has been very positive and the views they were keen to express have been enlightening and helpful to the authority. We will be issuing a full report on our findings in the near future once a detailed analysis is completed.”
The farms involved had been contacted at the start of this year and made aware of their legal responsibilities and the dangers they faced by employing workers from unlicensed labour providers.
Using the services of an unlicensed gangmaster is a criminal offence that carries penalties including fines and up to six months imprisonment.
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 and shellfish gathering.
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.