Regulator steps up unlicensed labour investigations
market has stepped-up investigations to find unlicensed
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) announced that Operation Trafalgar, which began last week, had already uncovered some illegal activity. Six teams of officers paid unannounced visits to sites across the UK, interviewing workers and inspecting premises. Processors found guilty of using unlicensed labour face up to six month imprisonment, while the labour providers could be sentenced to a maximum of ten years. Mike Wilson, chief executive of GLA, said both licenced and unlicensed labour providers could expect visits to ensure legal practices are being observed. "Getting a GLA licence is one thing. Keeping it is another," Wilson said. "Any licence holder can expect an unannounced visit by GLA officers to check continued compliance." The GLA has so far inspected salad processors in Scotland, West Sussex, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, investigating possible instances of bonded labour and other practices associated with unlicensed operations. "We were glad to find no labour provider so seriously non-compliant as to call for an immediate revocation of the licence," Wilson said. "It was also good to find labour providers that were fully compliant with the GLA standards. But it is clear that a significant level of non-compliance exists in a number of businesses." Those working for unlicensed labour providers are often paid less that the UK minimum wage and expected to work under unsuitable conditions. Other allegations investigated by officers include overcrowding, long hours without breaks and illegal deductions from pay. To date, the GLA has issued 1,009 licenses to labour providers, refusing 29. At present there has been 19 licenses revoked with non-immediate effect and one with immediate effect. "We are continuing our investigations and analysing the information already gathered where we have identified problems," Wilson said. "Some of the issues may be resolved by attaching a licence condition to remedy identified non-compliance within three months. However, there remains a likelihood of a licence or licences being revoked."