The Tories are making life harder for those at risk of forced labour.
The Joseph Rowntree report recommends that the industry should be regulated with workers’ needs in mind. Yet the Tories are cutting the “red tape” that regulates work.
The report says workers need to be able to learn English to have a better chance of finding alternative work. But the Tories have cut English classes.
It also says the government should help workers pursue grievances against employers. Yet the government is attacking legislation that allows workers to do this.
The report notes that a recent “crackdown” by the UK Border Agency “worsened pay and conditions for migrants” and “strengthened the hand of employers”.
Fear generated by immigration crackdowns even affects those who have the legal right to live and work in Britain.
The report recommends that the government should continue to support the Gangmaster’s Licensing Authority (GLA).
But the GLA is full of loopholes and only has the authority to enforce licenses, not end abuse. And it only has a handful of inspectors.
The conditions and vulnerability of the workers make it extremely difficult to convict anyone for forced labour offences.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, people can be prosecuted for forced labour offences.
But a question in the House of Lords in October last year showed that there have been no convictions under the current act.
Regulation is very weak. One Bulgarian woman told researchers, “When we are having inspections on the farm, they remove all Bulgarian and Romanian workers. When inspection is finished they go back to work.”
A Slovakian man added that there is “a lot of lying” involved during inspections.
He described how his manager’s sister was put forward as a picker to talk to inspectors although in fact she organised payments.