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A London-based gangmaster who placed workers in poor and overcrowded accommodation has had her licence revoked with immediate effect in what has been described as a “landmark” suspension by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).
The GLA was set up in 2006 to protect temporaries working in the agricultural and food processing sectors after the Morecambe Bay cockle picking tragedy in which migrant food pickers tragically lost their lives.
The GLA found that the said gangmaster had paid workers less than the legal minimum wage, withheld holiday pay and attempted to deceive GLA inspectors. Investigations showed that the company had withheld almost £250,000 worth of holiday entitlements, which had gone unpaid during the last two financial years.
Adults and a small child were found to be sleeping on mattresses on the floor in a small property in Plumstead, South East London. The property was rented out by Mrs Tajinder Singh to workers registered with her company, The Superior Service Co Ltd. 10 adults and two children were living in another of Mrs Singh’s three-bedroomed rental properties nearby, but the company director and landlady denied owning any houses, or renting them to her workers.
If the GLA finds breaches of licensing conditions it can and immediately prevent companies from trading. The company provided food processing and packaging workers as well as agricultural labour to companies and farms in Kent. The workers are now living in other properties and are working with farms directly or with other licence holders.
“With a remit to protect vulnerable workers, the GLA is satisfied with an outcome that removed those involved from being exploited, while dealing swiftly with the company responsible,” said GLA Chief Executive Paul Broadbent.
“Though a GLA licence requires the holder to comply with several strict standards, there was scant regard for a good number of them in this case. Workers were forced to live and travel in poor and cramped conditions and were denied payments to which they were legitimately entitled on a major scale.
“They were forced to fork out for Personal Protective Equipment required to do their jobs - which breached one licensing standard - and this fee took their pay below the National Minimum Wage, which broke another critical one.”