Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 12:57 UK

Gangmaster is stripped of licence

By Martin Shankleman
Employment correspondent, BBC News

Daffodils
The workers were said to have been paid pennies per bunch of flowers

A gangmaster has been stripped of his licence after investigators uncovered a "disgraceful story of forced labour" amongst migrant workers in Scotland.

Jonathan Beckson, of Suffolk-based Timberland Homes Recruitment, employed up to 200 mainly Polish farm workers.

These workers were then threatened with huge wage deductions if they wished to quit, according to the Gangmaster's Licensing Authority (GLA).

The BBC has been unable to contact Mr Beckson for comment.

'Abhorrent conditions'

The GLA said some workers claimed they were made to pick daffodils for four pence a bunch, and earned as little as 24 for a nine-hour day.

There is another world out there, that the vast majority of us are lucky enough not to see
GLA chairman Paul Whitehouse

No time sheets were used, so pay could not be accurately recorded, it was further said.

The workers were also alleged to have had illegal deductions made from their wages to cover transport and accommodation.

They were also said to have suffered "abhorrent" conditions, living in converted farm buildings in Angus, which did not have enough beds or toilets.

The GLA investigation found that there were 43 workers living in the buildings which had only 40 beds, and four toilets.

The workers were also charged for the protective clothing needed to carry out the job, according to the GLA, and the workers were transported in prohibited uncertified minibuses.

'Unbelievable'

"There is another world out there, that the vast majority of us are lucky enough not to see," said GLA chairman Paul Whitehouse.

"Forced labour, intimidation and abuse at work is something nobody should experience, but we are uncovering it too frequently.

"Some labour providers are doing a great job in a tough industry, but the rogue gangmasters are making workers' lives a misery and it is these crooks we are committed to catching."

Jim Sheridan, MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, said the case seemed "unbelievable in 21st Century Britain".

Mr Beckson's licence was revoked by the GLA on Tuesday, although he has the right to appeal.

Efforts by the BBC to contact him were unsuccessful.

Details of the case have been passed onto the UK Human Trafficking Centre and the Scottish Procurators' Fiscal to consider a prosecution.


SEE ALSO
Gang masters crackdown for city
22 Nov 05 |  Cambridgeshire
Eleven held in immigration swoop
04 Aug 04 |  Coventry/Warwickshire

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