Directors at the company, based at Wheelers Lane, Maidstone, in Kent, announced in June their decision to appeal against its licence being scrapped in October 2012. They claimed they were blameless of the poor practice uncovered by the GLA.
GLA ceo Paul Broadbent called the way the business had treated its workers “horrific”. “It’s a shocking example of an utter disregard for the welfare of workers,” he said. “The exploitation of the workers was prolonged and disgraceful by anyone’s standards.
“Their working conditions were unsanitary, unreasonable and wholly unacceptable. They were vulnerable people who were severely over-worked and grossly underpaid.”
Employees as young as 17 were forced to work for days at a time in filthy conditions without a bed, a shower or proper food, the GLA said, painting a grim picture of their situation.
Workers laboured through the night and were forced to sleep through the days on a minibus driven from the south east to jobs as far away as Penzance, in Cornwall and even Scotland.
In one instance, a driver was paid for being out for 133 hours in a week. However, the employees stuck on his minibus ‘at work’ for the same period received payment only for the number of chickens they caught.
‘Treated like slaves’
“The directors of DJ Houghton have been pleading their innocence for months, complaining to the local press and their MP about how the GLA has deprived them from earning an ‘honest living’,” said Broadbent. “The fact is that these workers were treated like slaves.
“Despite their repeated protestations, this company has now made a u-turn and accepted our revocation decision, which is not surprising as our scoring system rated them as the worst UK gangmaster ever.”
The company failed 18 separate licensing standards – enough for its licence to be revoked more than 10 times over.