The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) has been doing a good job in protecting workers from exploitation in difficult circumstances, according to an independent report commissioned by the GLA.
The report, compiled by the universities of Sheffield and Liverpool, revealed that since the GLA started issuing licences in April 2006, gangmasters and labour providers had been ‘formalised’ and drawn more into the formal economy.
However, the authors called for multiple retailers to respond to a widely held perception among labour providers, labour users and stakeholders that their ethical trading initiatives were at odds with the targets set for their buyers and managers. This was one of 13 recommendations the authors made.
On the positive side, the report noted that contract and workers’ terms and conditions were now more transparent; health and safety at work was now taken more seriously; minor abuses of workers - such as deductions from wages - had been reduced; and substandard gangmaster accommodation was no longer so common, although there were reports of “accommodation issues becoming more important”
The GLA was formed in the wake of tragedy at Morecambe Bay in 2004 when 23 illegally employed Chinese workers perished as they collected cockles. The UK accounts for up to one-third of all temporary labour employment in the EU, but employer prosecutions have been typically lower than elsewhere.
While good progress had been made, the report’s authors also expressed concern about the pace of enforcement activity and the limited number of unannounced compliance visits by the GLA.
Commenting on the report, GLA chairman Paul Whitehouse said: “We know exploitation still exists in these very competitive industries and it is our aim to stop this … it is a challenge that needs an industry-wide effort and not simply a GLA endeavour.”
Accepting that the next few years would be critical, Whitehouse said: “We need to demonstrate our capacity to ensure workers are protected and a level playing field is established for legitimate businesses.”
For the full report visit: http://www.gla.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1013265