Chatteris firm employs staff direct instead of using gangmaster agencies


Leek - Credit: Archant

Nightlayer Leek Company, of Chatteris, was recently featured on a BBC documentary about worker exploitation but was unaware of the problems as it had always employed its staff via agencies.

The day after the programme aired two weeks ago, Nightlayer bosses immediately switched its staff over to direct contracts.

A total of 60 workers were moved over to the Chatteris firm from Slender Contracting Ltd.

Some of the people had been employed via the agency for eight years.

Yesterday Nightlayer switched a further 45 staff from Roberto Mac.

Farmer Trevor Edgley said: “As responsible employers, following the expose, we could no longer use Slender Contracting and in the light of the police operation we could no longer use Roberto Mac.

“We have taken the staff on the pay roll with proper wages and holiday pay.

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“It came as a shock when the programme came out. We are now waiting to see what comes out from the final investigation.”

Mr Edgley said that their firm, like all other bosses who used employment agencies, worked on a trust basis.

Slender Contracting and Roberto Mac were both registered with the Association of Labour Providers, ALP, and had a Gangmaster Licensing Authority license.

“They have got all these provisions in place, there are guidelines laid out and they have provided long term employment for years.”

Whilst insisting he was not commenting on any of those arrested in Operation Endeavour, Mr Edgley said that d a four month investigation “ the BBC documentary found evidence of migrants being forced to pay fellow countrymen bribes just to get a few days’ work in the field - and some being left to live on less than £1 a week.

The workers were paid fairly by the farms that employed the staff through legal gangmasters, but work was sub contracted.

Owners of the farms were unaware of any exploitation.

Some workers told the BBC they were brought in from Latvia and Lithuania on the premise of nonexistent jobs and then housed in overcrowded squalid homes in Cambridgeshire.

Although these migrants are in the UK legally, the people finding them work are breaking the law by not being licensed. Some of them are also being paid below the minimum wage.

Many are trapped in debt after being fined up to £1,000 for failing to turn up for work.

About a third of the estimated 20,000 population of Wisbech, in Cambridgeshire, is made up of migrant workers.

It is now a criminal offence to work as a gangmaster without a licence, or use an unlicensed provider.