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Swoop on rogue gangmasters

PUBLISHED: 17:41 03 September 2008 | UPDATED: 10:03 23 August 2010

ROGUE gangmasters are warned they face a zero-tolerance approach as inspectors plan to carry out further raids in Kent. Investigators from the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA) are three months into an 18-month operation to target bosses who exploit f

ROGUE gangmasters are warned they face a zero-tolerance approach as inspectors plan to carry out further raids in Kent.

Investigators from the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA) are three months into an 18-month operation to target bosses who exploit fruit packers and pickers. Last Wednesday, 26 surprise inspections were carried out at 20 businesses, including 10 gang bosses, as part of Operation Ajax.

Workers picking and packing produce often have wages withheld, have not taken holiday in over a year and many are paid below the minimum wage. Most workers involved were Indian, Pakistani, Polish and Nepalese.

GLA chairman Paul Whitehouse said: "The GLA is intent on catching the rogues and protecting the workers. We are not finished in Kent. We will be back.

"The reputable businesses were delighted to see us protecting their interests and share our determination to rid the industry of the rogues.

"Today it was Kent, tomorrow somewhere else. No rogue, no matter where they are, is safe from the clutches of the GLA."

At least one unlicensed boss was identified and issued with an enforcement notice. Other links are now being investigated. Four businesses that have contracted workers from an unlicensed supplier were given enforcement notices.

Other licences are under threat of being revoked pending further inquiries by investigators.

More than 20 gangmasters have had licences revoked in just over the first three months of this year.

Set up by the government to regulate the industry, the GLA focuses on the supply of workers who pick and pack fruit and herbs grown in the county as well as packing produce brought into the country.

Other allegations against rogue bosses include workers having no contract or contract irregularities, no holiday pay and workers being forced to use company transport and to pay for their own protective equipment.

To report exploitation, call the GLA on 0845 602 5021 or visit www.gla.gov.uk/report

michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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