Net closing on unlicensed gangmasters


Gangmasters who have not applied for a licence and aim to operate illegally will be tracked down and dealt with, the industry's licensing authority has said.

New licensing laws will come into effect on October 1st and were introduced partly due to the death of 23 Chinese cockle pickers from fast moving tides at Morecambe bay in February 2004.

Bosses who are found to be operating without a licence could face an unlimited fine and up to ten years in prison.

And speaking to BBC Radio 4 this morning, the chief executive of the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA), Mike Wilson, explained that the body was well placed to enforce the new legislation.

"We have very good arrangements with other government departments, we have very good intelligence, we have a range of intelligence means open to us including the confidential crime stoppers line and the idea is that on Monday we start work looking for these businesses," he said.

The chief executive revealed that the GLA has 30 members of staff whose jobs are dedicated to rooting out illegal gangmasters, while the authority would also work in close conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions, the Health and Safety Executive and the police.

"To date we've had roughly 1,000 applications but we are under no illusions, there are probably 200 or 300 gangmasters out there who haven't come forward for a licence," he added.

Mr Wilson admitted that those who had not yet applied for licences "will want to act illegally", adding that "whether they will be able to continue to act illegally depends on us".

However, he claimed that promising early indications suggested the GLA had taken great strides in preventing further exploitation.

"I am not pretending that we have cracked the problem, but to the labour providers that we have licensed we issue things called licensing conditions," he said.

"They have worked those off, in other words they have improved the way in which they employ their labour within the six months that we have been operating and that is a demonstrable improvement," Mr Wilson concluded.

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