Authority’s warning to gangmasters
ROGUE gangmasters who exploit the growing numbers of migrant workers in the region were this week warned: There is no hiding place. With more than 100,000 migrant workers employed across the Fens and the rest of East Anglia, Paul Whitehouse, chairman of
ROGUE gangmasters who exploit the growing numbers of migrant workers in the region were this week warned: "There is no hiding place."
With more than 100,000 migrant workers employed across the Fens and the rest of East Anglia, Paul Whitehouse, chairman of the Gangmaster Licensing Authority, pledged to crack down on illegal work practices.
The message came as a Suffolk gangmaster was forced to shut down his business - the third in the region to be closed in the last year - after a catalogue of wrongdoing was uncovered.
The company, which employed about 350 Lithuanian workers, was closed after inspectors found evidence of"total disregard" for workers' welfare.
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Mr Whitehouse added: "When inspecting the business, officers were astounded to find that issues previously raised had not been dealt with and the situation was now even worse."
The GLA, set up after the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2005, aims to stop the exploitation of foreign workers.
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There are 1,140 licensed gangmasters across the UK and since December 2006, 46 licences have been revoked, three in the Fens.
Friday Bridge International Camp, which provided strawberry growers across Cambridgeshire, and Slender Contracting in March, were forced to stop trading last year after failing to meet the required standards but both have since improved and been granted new licences.
Wisbech-based gangmaster CJ Wilson was refused a licence in March 2007.
A GLA spokesman said illegal gangmasters could not hide from the law. All complaints were investigated fully and businesses needed to realise their responsibility did not stop once they had acquired a licence.
He added: "There are large numbers of migrant workers in East Anglia but these things can and do happen anywhere.
"We're revoking licences almost on a weekly basis. There are a lot of problems out there, but we will get round to dealing with all of them.