Operation Ajax strikes in Kent
27th August 2008
The Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA) hit Kent with 26 surprise inspections on 20 separate businesses including 10 gangmasters as part of Operation Ajax. At least one unlicensed gangmaster was identified and issued with an enforcement notice, with enforcement officers investigating links into further unlicensed activity in the area.
Four businesses that contracted workers from an unlicensed gangmaster were also issued with enforcement notices. The licences of some gangmasters are under threat pending further enquiries by our enforcement teams.It was not all bad news.
Many legitimate gangmasters, farmers and packhouses were meeting legal requirements and welcomed the forceful action by the GLA to protect their legitimate businesses from the rogues and scoundrels that are undercutting them in Kent. As the government body set up to regulate gangmasters and protect workers rights the GLA operation focused on the supply of workers to pick and pack fruit and herbs grown in the county as well as packing produce brought into the country. The workers picking and packing the produce were mainly of Indian, Pakistani, Polish and Nepalese backgrounds.
• Withholding wages – irregular payments of wages including non-payment when the gangmaster was on holiday
• contract irregularities – workers bonded to agency and not allowed to be employed by the labour user or leave to work for another agency
• Workers had not taken any holiday in over a year
• Workers did not receive holiday pay
• Workers forced to use company transport
• Workers had to pay for their own protective equipment to carry out the job
• Agricultural minimum wage was not paid to workers
• no contracts
Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the GLA, said:
“The GLA is intent on catching the rogues and protecting the workers. We are not finished in Kent, we will be back.”
“The reputable businesses were delighted to see us protecting their interests and share our determination to rid the industry of the rogues.”
“Today it was Kent, tomorrow somewhere else; no rogue, no matter where they are, is safe from the clutches of the GLA.”
Notes to editors:
1. So far, the GLA has licensed approximately 1,200. 70 licences have been revoked (7 with immediate effect).
2. The GLA stepped up its fight against those who abuse workers with the launch of Operation Ajax in June. The operation was set up to increase the GLA’s activities with an 18-month programme of unannounced raids.
3. Paul Whitehouse, GLA Chairman, is available for interview.
To find out more about the work of the GLA please visit: www.gla.gov.uk
Public enquiries: 0845 602 5020
Media enquiries: 0115 900 8963/07825 797130