Rogue gangmaster brought to book
16th June 2008
A rogue gangmaster with unacceptable work practices has been shut down by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). Mr Gurdip Singh, Director of Stonehouse Recruitment Ltd of Oldbury, West Midlands, had attempted to mislead the GLA and failed to co-operate with GLA officers.
Because of the GLA’s determination to leave no stone unturned, along with the help of Walsh Mushrooms Ltd, who were supplied workers by Stonehouse, Mr Singh’s business can no longer operate in the GLA regulated sectors.
The GLA found:
• Singh had misled GLA officers when he stated the business did not use or own vehicles to take workers to and from work
• no PSV licence held for a 15 seater minibus – despite having been told this needed one
• Singh failed to cooperate with GLA officers and failed to allow them to review key documents
• clear evidence that working time regulations had been breached
• no evidence that timesheets were kept in order to record the days and hours worked by workers
• no records were kept for ten workers and Mr Singh had not confirmed the identity of his workers and their right to work in the UK
• contract irregularities had not been resolved despite prior notification that the contracts failed to reflect a number of legal requirements
• there was no evidence to suggest that deductions from workers’ pay and income tax had been paid to the HMRC.
At the time of the revocation decision, Stonehouse supplied workers to Walsh Mushrooms, in Evesham. Throughout the investigation, Walsh Mushrooms worked closely with the GLA and provided copies of workers’ timesheets that Stonehouse either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide. Walsh Mushrooms were at no point under investigation by the GLA and had met the legal responsibility of using a licensed gangmaster.
Michael O’Sullivan, Managing Director of Walsh Mushrooms, said:
“Walsh Mushrooms strictly adheres to GLA requirements for labour providers and takes this responsibility very seriously. As soon as we were alerted to the issues concerning Stonehouse Recruitment Ltd, immediate action was taken to terminate their contract with us.
The GLA have confirmed that we have met all our legal responsibilities, were at no point under investigation ourselves and co-operated fully with the GLA inspectors throughout the investigation
“We have safeguarded the future employment of those workers affected with the option to transfer to our main labour provider
. “We will also continue to co-operate fully with the GLA and support their actions in routing out rogue labour suppliers.”
The GLA revoked the licence without immediate effect in February 2008. Stonehouse were allowed to continue trading until the outcome of its appeal.
The ruling dismissing the appeal stated that Mr Singh had:
“…clearly sought to mislead the GLA by wilfully failing to allow appropriate inspections, producing documentation of dubious authenticity and giving declarations to correct breaches of Licensing Standards which it then failed to honour.”
Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the GLA, said:
“It is a criminal offence to intentionally obstruct a GLA officer in their duties, to fail to comply with a request of a GLA officer without reasonable cause and to provide false information or provide a false statement to a GLA officer. Mr Singh is lucky on this occasion to only be losing his licence.
“The GLA is here to route out the rogues. We are getting results through strong enforcement, which is the only way to stop this exploitation. Our thanks go to Walsh Mushrooms for their help.”
Peter Luff, MP for Mid-Worcestershire and Chairman of the Business and Enterprise House of Commons Select Committee said:
“I congratulate the GLA on the success it is having in stamping out abuse in my area and throughout the UK. Stonehouse is a classic example of the sort of business the UK cannot allow to slip through the net. We must never allow workers to be treated shabbily or to be subject to exploitation that can, in the most extreme cases, put their lives in danger.
“As I have said before, I believe the powers of the GLA should be increased and the organisation’s responsibilities extended to other industries where vulnerable workers are at risk” Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Association of Labour Providers, said:
“The ALP fully support the GLA in taking strong action against those labour providers that do not comply with the licensing standards. But there is also a responsibility on labour users and their customers to conduct proper due-diligence on labour providers and not to rely on the GLA to identify failings.” Stonehouse is the 60th gangmaster to lose their licence.
The company was also named in the recent book, ‘Chinese Whispers: the true story behind Britain’s hidden army of labour’. The author Hsiao-Hung Pai, who went undercover as a worker to research the book, told the GLA:
“Workers of this company told me that they were charged a heavy registration fee by their first-line recruiter. They were given overcrowded accommodation, sometimes having to share a bed with a coworker. All over Worcestershire and Northamptonshire, South Asian and Chinese workers are working extremely long hours, exceeding 72 hours a week. They are selling their cheapest labour on the vegetable farms and mushroom processing factories – as cheap as 80p per basket of leeks, in cash. Unfortunately, Stonehouse Recruitment Ltd isn’t unique. After its license has been revoked, we have to worry about it coming back in another name, another place.”
Notes to editors
1. Walsh Mushrooms supply major retailers and food manufacturers www.walshmushrooms.com/aboutus/index.htm
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’. It is illegal to operate without a licence, with the maximum penalty of ten years in prison and an unlimited fine.
3. 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.
4. All licences that are revoked have the right of appeal including licences revoked with immediate effect.
5. GLA Chairman, Paul Whitehouse, is available for interview.
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