Gangmasters’ body gets policing powers

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority now has more powers to protect workers in the food supply chain
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority now has more powers to protect workers in the food supply chain

Related tags Modern slavery Slavery Human trafficking Minimum wage

New police-style powers have been given to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) to tackle modern slavery and labour exploitation in the agri-food supply chain.

The new powers allow GLAA officers to carry out arrests rather than refer offenders on to police forces.

Since its expansion two months ago, the GLAA has arrested over 25 people on suspicion of exploiting workers, safeguarded 76 potential victims of slavery, and recovered tens of thousands of pounds in confiscated wages.

The government has invested an additional £2M to extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which has been renamed the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority. Its new mission is to prevent, detect and investigate worker exploitation across the entire economy.

“Modern slavery is abhorrent; it is described by the prime minister as ‘the greatest human rights issue of our time’,”​ said GLAA chief executive Paul Broadbent.“Much of it is controlled by organised crime gangs who have links to drug smuggling, and gun violence.

Eradicate slavery

“But those who profit and perpetrate slavery and exploitation should now be looking over their shoulders because the creation of the GLAA is a significant step in our desire to see it eradicated.”

Estimates put the number of slaves in the UK between 10,000–13,000, but the GLAA believes it could be even higher. Slavery and labour exploitation have infiltrated a number of legitimate supply chains, it claims.

“Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys lives,”​ said Sarah Newton, minister for vulnerability, safeguarding and countering extremism. “We have taken world-leading action to protect victims and deal with perpetrators, and extended the reach of the GLAA to enable them to do even more.

“I am pleased to see this important agency putting these new powers to good effect and am confident that officers will continue to stamp out the unscrupulous criminals who exploit the most vulnerable.”

Since the beginning of May, the GLAA’s new powers have been put to good use across the country with multiple joint operations to clamp down on slavers and ruthless employers.

This included an operation conducted with South Yorkshire Police, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) last month (June 19) in which warrants were executed at a number of addresses and four men arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and money laundering offences.

Victims of exploitation

Over the following days more than 100 addresses were then visited to identify potential victims of exploitation.

The GLAA will be collaborating closely with the police, NCA, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement, Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, HMRC, the Department of Work and Pensions and others. GLAA analysts are already working within the Joint Slavery Trafficking Analysis Centre – the elite intelligence gathering unit set up this year to tackle human trafficking.

“Our approach, in terms of prevention, enforcement and support for those who are victims, shows we are now leading the way as a country in tackling this despicable practice,” ​added Broadbent.

“I am confident that with our partners, the GLAA will have a major impact on disrupting and dismantling modern slavery networks that have established themselves within the UK and tackling poor and illegal practices that see thousands of workers exploited by employers every year.”

Labour market offences are offences under the following legislation: Employment Agencies Act 1973, the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 and Parts 1 and 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Supply chain survey

As part of an online survey that Food Manufacture​ is conducting over the next couple of months to inform a ‘Supply chain supplement’, that is being published in the October issue of the magazine, sponsored by Autenticate Information Systems, readers are asked whether they are either in the process or have already produced a business response to the Modern Slavery Act. Click here​ to participate in the supply chain survey.



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