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UK – Worst gangmaster withdraws appeal against licence revocation

05 March 2014

A Kent-based gangmaster, who exposed dozens of migrant workers to some of the most extreme exploitation ever reported by the Gangmasters Licencing Authority (GLA), has withdrawn its appeal against the decision to revoke its licence.

Directors at DJ Houghton Catching Services maintained that they were blameless for the poor practices unearthed at their company and appealed against the decision to take away their licence in June 2012.

They repeatedly stated in the local press that the company would fight to clear its name in the appeal court, get the company’s licence reinstated, and resume trading as soon as possible. However, the business has now withdrawn its appeal and accepted the GLA’s revocation decision.

Paul Broadbent, Chief Executive of the GLA, commented: “The treatment of workers in this case was horrific. It’s a shocking example of an utter disregard for the welfare of workers. The exploitation of the workers was prolonged and disgraceful by anyone’s standards. Their working conditions were unsanitary, unreasonable, and wholly unacceptable. They were vulnerable people who were severely over-worked and grossly underpaid.”

Employees as young at 17 years old were reportedly forced to work for days at a time in filthy conditions without a bed, a shower, or proper food. They worked through the nights and were forced to sleep through the days on a minibus, as they were driven from the south-east to jobs as far away as Penzance in Cornwall, Cumbria, and even into Scotland.

In one instance, a driver was paid for working 133 hours in a week, yet the employees he transported in his minibus over the same period only received payment for the number of chickens they caught at their particular job.

The company’s licence was revoked on 30 October 2012 following a high profile investigation. They appealed against the revocation decision in June 2013.

Mr Broadbent added: “The directors of DJ Houghton have been pleading their innocence for months, complaining to the local press and their MP about how the GLA has deprived them from earning an ‘honest living’. The fact is, that these workers were treated like slaves.”

“Despite their repeated protestations, this company has now made a U-turn and accepted our revocation decision, which is not surprising as our scoring system rated them as the work UK gangmaster, ever,” Mr Broadbent concluded.        

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