We met with Gangmasters Licensing Authority

Today we participated in the meeting of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority’s (GLA) NGO/Worker Liaison Group. We have been invited following our involvement in protecting migrant workers’ rights and voicing concerns on behalf of vulnerable Eastern European workers who have been or who are at risk of labour abuse and exploitation.

The GLA is a labour inspectorate responsible for licensing agencies that provide workers to the fresh produce supply chain: agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering, and food processing.  The GLA runs a business licensing scheme that aims to protect workers employed in these sectors and ensure that work agencies and gangmasters comply with the law – all businesses employing people in agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and food processing must be licensed by the GLA. Workers who feel their rights are abused should make complaints to the GLA who can investigate on their behalf.

In the meeting we discussed the changes to the GLA’s remit and related issues around its capacity to continue its work, and most common complaints.

We have learnt that most common complaints relate to non-payment of wages, non-payment of sick pay and psychological abuse (including bullying). It is not a coincidence that these three issues are also most common problems that we see in our employment rights casework. However, our users do tend to work in sectors that are currently not covered by the GLA authority: construction, catering, hospitality, care, retail and warehousing.

Therefore we welcome the government’s plan to expand the GLA’s remit to cover other sectors that present high risk of abuse and exploitation that followed a consultation exercise in relation to the Immigration Bill currently going through the Parliament. The new agency will be called the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority. It is not yet clear when the GLA will transform.

We are concerned, however, that current capacity of the GLA is barely enough to deal with licensing and complaints from workers employed in a relatively narrow area of labour workforce. We join other partners and stakeholders (more here>> Briefing on Immigration Bill – Business, Trade Union & NGO) in a call to the government to increase budget allocations for the new Authority so that workers in Great Britain have their rights protected. We continue to call on authorities to hold migrant workers’ rights at the heart of labour enforcement efforts – we are workers first and migrants second.