Gangmaster loses licence for ‘skimming’ pay

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

One poultry factory employee was reported to have been paid just £5.03 an hour
One poultry factory employee was reported to have been paid just £5.03 an hour

Related tags: Minimum wage

A Shropshire-based fresh produce recruitment agency has been stripped of its licence for systematically ‘skimming’ workers’ pay, resulting in employees receiving less than the national minimum wage.

TRS Personnel, of Stafford Park in Telford, has lost its Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA) permit to supply temporary workers to a number of food factories in the county.

The GLA investigated the company’s operations after receiving complaints that it was ‘chopping’ workers’ hours, resulting in underpayment of wages and a significant financial advantage for the business.

TRS Personnel is run by Shrewsbury couple Jeff and Vicki Lawrence.

Following the inspection, the company’s licence to provide temporary workers to the fresh produce sector was revoked with immediate effect earlier this month. The deadline to appeal that decision has now passed.

Discrepancy over wages

The discrepancy over wages was revealed when the numbers of hours the factories being billed for was checked against and found to be greater than the number of hours for which employees were paid.

Overall, the company was found to have breached four of the GLA’s Licensing Standards – three of which were critical. One critical breach is enough for a gangmaster to lose its licence.

Breaches included the failure of Jeff Lawrence to act in a ‘fit and proper’ manner, the failure to pay the correct wages, the apparent altering of payroll records to disguise the underpayment of workers, and the withholding of accrued holiday pay.

When asked for a schedule of holiday pay records for workers being supplied to one factory, the company produced a document with 56 names on it, but the payroll company had records for 268 workers being supplied for the same week.

Similarly, the payroll company schedule showed 147 workers had accrued holiday pay over a specific period, but only 39 had actually been paid.

Why TRS Personnel lost its license

  • Failure to act in a ‘fit and proper’ manner
  • Failure to pay correct wages
  • Payroll records altered to disguise underpayment
  • Withholding of accrued holiday pay

One poultry factory employee was reported to have been paid as little as £5.03 an hour compared with the £6.50 he was entitled to.

No willingness to comply

The GLA said the Lawrences showed no willingness to comply with legal, regulatory or professional requirements and standards, and have effectively now been banned from working as gangmasters.

GLA director of licensing Nicola Ray said: “TRS Personnel systematically denied money due to their workers using a number of different methods – effectively preying on the lowly-paid by skimming their wages to boost company profits.

“By employing such tactics, the employees received less than the National Minimum Wage and such pre-determined exploitation will not be ignored by the GLA.

In February, the government announced proposals to reform the GLA as part of its new Immigration Bill​.

As part of the proposals, the GLA would become the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority with stronger powers to tackle labour exploitation across the economy.

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