Gangmasters threaten voilence against migrant workers

PUBLISHED: 16:38 19 March 2007 | UPDATED: 22:39 28 May 2010

Linda Hutchinson from the Fenland CAB

Linda Hutchinson from the Fenland CAB

GANGMASTERS continue to threaten violence on a regular basis against migrant workers in the Fens despite new regulations destined to curb their illegal activities. There are certain gangmasters where we receive several complaints each week, often where v

GANGMASTERS continue to threaten violence on a regular basis against migrant workers in the Fens despite new regulations destined to curb their illegal activities.

"There are certain gangmasters where we receive several complaints each week, often where violence has been threatened against workers," said Linda Hutchinson, manager of the Fenland Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Her list of complaints have been released through EEDA, the East of England Development Agency, and follows the setting up of the Gangmasters' Licensing Authority.

She said: "Complaints against gangmasters are increasing, not decreasing as we hoped they would with licence enforcement."

Ms Hutchinson said the majority of complaints came from Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish workers, most of whom speak little or no English.

Ms Hutchinson said the issues coming into her bureau include:

* no disciplinary or grievance procedures

* sick payment and holiday entitlement disputes

* some gangmasters still insisting on all employees renting accommodation through them

* evicting workers without notice if sick or pregnant

"Violence is threatened if they resist or complain," she said. "They charge admin fees for payslips, withhold all contracts, written terms and conditions and tenancy agreements."

Ms Hutchinson's assessment says the new registration system for gangmasters lacked "teeth."

She said: "Their website states that part of their mission is to safeguard the welfare and interests of workers. However they refer only to penalties arising from operating without a licence rather than penalties for breach of licence conditions."

Jack Dromey, deputy secretary of the T&G, said his union had fought hard for the licensing of gangmasters "but an act alone does not answer the problems. It needs to be rigorously enforced, and apply without exemption to sectors of the economy where unscrupulous gangmasters operate."

The GLA said it was preparing three cases for prosecution and last month alone had revoked 13 licences.

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