'Anti-slavery police' get active in capital
20th November 2017
Investigators from the GLAA employed their new powers during a week of action looking into reports of possible labour exploitation in London.
The UK’s foremost labour abuse investigation and prevention agency teamed up with the London Fire Brigade, the Metropolitan Police, the Health and Safety Executive and the Government’s National Minimum Wage Unit on three separate operations in the past few days.
Operations began on Tuesday when the GLAA was accompanied by the police and HSE to check on a group of Romanian construction workers.
These were living on-site while carrying out a housing development project in Tottenham. While the workers’ appeared to be safe and well issues were uncovered concerning payments below the National Minimum Wage and these are now being worked through.
On Wednesday the GLAA was accompanied by fire and police officers in the capital to a recycling plant in Barking, Essex. Two Indian nationals were arrested from the site in suspicion of immigration offences.
And yesterday, the police and NMW officers went with the GLAA to a hotel in central London where they found cleaning staff who appeared to be receiving payments in breach of the National Minimum Wage.
Though its remit was previously restricted to the fresh produce sector, since 1 May this year the GLAA has been able to investigate all forms of abuse in the labour market across England and Wales.
GLAA Head of UK Operations Ian Waterfield said: “While we have discovered some serious issues and laid the foundations for some solid working practices with key partner agencies, we know we have barely started to scratch the surface of the exploitation that exists in our capital.
“As an intelligence-led organisation we need the public to provide us with information about labour abuse, financial and physical exploitation and possible modern slavery offences. We can and we will investigate but we can’t without help from the public.”
He insisted that anyone who suspected labour exploitation was taking place in the UK should call the GLAA in complete confidence on 0800 432 0804.
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Strengthening the GLAA through the Immigration Act 2016 forms part of wider Government reforms to labour market enforcement.
- On 30 April 2017, the provisions to give the GLAA’s Labour Abuse Prevention Officers (LAPOs) powers under the Police and Crime Evidence Act 1984 came into force. This means that LAPOs can use these powers to investigate labour market offences, including modern slavery across the economy.
- Labour market offences are offences under the following legislation: Employment Agencies Act 1973, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 and Parts 1 and 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
- The GLAA was previously the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), formed following the deaths of 23 cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2004. The GLA’s remit was to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers within the fresh produce sector – agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and all associated processing and packaging.
- You can find out more about the role of the GLAA by visiting our website and how to spot the signs of forced labour by clicking here.