Industry Profiles - Shellfish Gathering Industry - 2020
Here we look at labour exploitation in the shellfish gathering industry and the headline trends for this sector including victim profiles, location and how they are transported to work.
Most reports concern the gathering of cockles but there are reports of other types of shellfish including clams, winkles, mussels and oysters.
Gatherers often work in groups consisting of males, females and sometimes children believed to familial. Chinese nationals are most reported, followed by British and Polish. Ages vary.
There are also reports of Eastern European workers, although specific nationalities are not given.
Irregular migrants are reported to be working in the sector.
Occurs along the UK coastline, with increased reporting in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the South-East.
There is significant competition in the industry over licences and supply. Information suggests there have been local tensions and disputes over access to gatherers. There are also environmental concerns.
Methods used to recruit workers are largely unknown. Locals may proactively gather shellfish and sell to buyers. Owners and/or employees of restaurants are also reported to gather produce.
Transport to place of work
Gatherers are often conveyed to their place of work by private vehicles, usually in groups. Groups can consist of solely male gatherers, but often comprise of men, women and children of over 70 people.
Health and safety
Health and safety issues are of great concern. Issues including fast-moving tides and quicksand pose a significant risk to workers. There are also concerns regarding lack of PPE, including life jackets, and overcrowding of vessels.
The UK live market is currently made up of Class B exclusively and there are reports that, following Brexit, this type of shellfish will no longer be accepted into the market. This could impact on the price of shellfish and may result in disputes amongst buyers.
Key questions to prevent and identify labour exploitation
• Do you know and understand each level of your supply chain? Do you conduct background checks?
• What mechanisms are in place to understand high risk workers’ recruitment and working conditions? Are these effective?
• Do you have a publicised reporting process for complaints by workers?
• Are contracts and conditions of employment provided to all workers?
• Are there routine audits regarding worker safety?
• Do you have an internal escalation process if you identify an issue of exploitation? Do you know who to contact?
What to consider when reporting intelligence
Example: Chinese workers are sleeping on the beach on the Wales coast. They are used for gathering shellfish during low tides by an unknown person.
What further information may assist the GLAA?
Provide more details about the workers involved such as:
- How many were sighted?
- Do any appear to be minors?
- Male or female?
- When were they seen?
- Have they been sighted before?
- Are there any health concerns?
- Is any more information known about a potential exploiter i.e. vehicles used, description?
Whilst not all factors may be known, any additional details will assist the GLAA in identifying people and locations involved for operational purposes and to improve our intelligence picture.
Who to contact
Please report to the GLAA:
• Unlicensed trading in the regulated sector (agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and any associated processing and packaging) across the UK.
• Labour market offences (non-payment of the National Minimum Wage, breach of Employment Agency Standards) in the regulated sector in England and Wales
• Individuals, labour users or labour providers who are suspected of modern slavery and human trafficking in any labour industry (excluding sexual exploitation), or individuals who are potential victims of such activity in England and Wales.
Please report to partners:
• Issues of National Minimum Wage only, in sectors that are not GLAA regulated to the HMRC NMW team (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/national-minimum-wage-enquiries-and-complaints)
• Health and safety issues only (all sectors) to the Health and Safety Executive (http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm)
• Workplace relations and employment law issues (including contract issues, discrimination and grievances) to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) (https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1410)
• When there is an immediate threat to life contact the police emergency number.
• To report labour exploitation, human trafficking or modern slavery outside of the regulated sectors in Northern Ireland or Scotland, contact the local police service.