From the TUC

The Continuing Tale of Migrant Exploitation

16 May 2012, by in Working Life

Yesterday’s guest post from Louise Woodruff of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) made for harrowing but unfortunately all too familiar reading. Louise provided a resume on the new JRF report  ‘Experiences of Forced Labour in the UK Food Industry’. The JRF report is both a catalogue of human misery but also of the greed and depravity of some employers.

Based on JRF’s usual high quality research we are told how some employers set-out to exploit vulnerable migrant workers. Often this is done through the creation of debt bondage. Gangmasters’ demanding fees for providing work, none payment of wages, unlawful deductions from wages or deliberately with-holding work whilst providing loans. All is done to build a total dependency of the employee on the employer. This compliance through the use of debt bondage is frequently backed up by physical and mental abuse. In addition, accommodation is also provided by the employer which means loss of job also means no-where to live!

The picture painted by the report is I would repeat all too familiar. Where other research has been carried-out focusing on low paid A8 workers, frequently employed through agencies, similar tales of abuse have been unearthed. This abuse is found across many sectors of the economy and is on-going. Without repeating all of the reports sound policy recommendations, I would highlight just one.

Continued government support for the Gangmasters Licencing Authority and possible strengthening of its powers’

This strengthening of powers must include a broadening of the GLA’s remit to intervene in all sectors of the economy. The JRF report makes it clear that this terrible exploitation takes part in sectors of the economy in which the GLA can intervene (food processing) and in sectors where it cannot (restaurants). The last government responded to calls for a broadening of the GLA’s remit by saying we don’t have the evidence that exploitation is going on in other sectors of the economy. How much more
evidence does a British government need to act?

Finally, there is a current discussion over the perceived preference of some employers for employing migrant or mobile workers from central and eastern Europe. For some employers there is a genuine preference and is based on an intention to exploit!