Kent based gangmaster stopped from trading for serious exploitation of workers.
30th October 2012
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority has revoked the licence of D J Houghton Catching Services Limited with immediate effect following a joint operation with Kent police.
The Maidstone based firm used gangs of workers to catch chickens at farms across the UK. But the GLA’s investigation found those workers suffered exploitation so extreme that the Authority had to order the firm to stop supplying workers to farms and food factories immediately.
The GLA and Kent Police mounted a joint operation and uncovered the exploitation at locations around Kent.
Evidence obtained directly by the GLA identified that the mainly Lithuanian workers were subjected to threats and physical violence, housed in overcrowded accommodation, and lived in a climate of fear.
The workers were also charged excessive job finding fees, had pay stopped for the most spurious reasons and had to work without proper health and safety equipment.
Together these issues demonstrated to the GLA that D J Houghton Catching Services Limited breached so many of the licence conditions that continued operation would have been totally unacceptable, resulting in the decision to revoke the licence.
Neil Court of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority said:
“This is one of the worse cases of exploitation the GLA has ever uncovered in the food supply chain. The GLA remains committed to tackling the worst offenders, ensuring that those companies and individuals that are intent on exploiting workers are prevented from holding a GLA licence, or have their licence revoked.”
In addition to the action by the GLA, Kent Police arrested two individuals on suspicion of human trafficking offences. Kent Police enquiries are ongoing.
A spokesperson for Kent Police said:
” Kent Police will support the GLA’s role to control any company which fails to comply with the licensing legislation, which was set up to protect the rights of workers. Such failures can and do lead to exploitation. Jointly we will seek to prevent and prosecute any identified exploitation, whether through civil regulation or criminal investigation.”
DJ Houghton Catching Services Limited has a right of appeal against the GLA’s decision.
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. The Act establishing it was passed in 2004.
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. It is a criminal offence to provide labour in the industries regulated by the GLA without a licence. It is also an offence to use labour provided by unlicensed labour providers.
5. The GLA assess compliance against its Licensing Standards which reflects UK legislation, including Forced Labour Offence. Licensing Standard 1.1 covers whether a person is “Fit & Proper” to hold a licence.
6. In December 2009 a new offence of forced labour was introduced in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. It became an offence in Scotland in August 2010. GLA guidance on the offences can be found in GLA Brief 9.
7. The GLA is committed to the Governments regulatory principles, and does not conduct inspections without reason where potential risks may be identified.
8. Neil Court, Head of Operations, GLA East, is available for interview.
Public enquiries: 0845 602 5020
Media enquiries: 0845 602 5020