GPW Recruitment have been successful in their application for a Gangmasters licence.
After a successful campaign spearheaded by the T&G, the Gangmasters Licensing Act received royal assent on 8th July 2004.
In mid November 2004, labour providers were urged to sign up to a new code of practice to ensure that they obey the law and respect the rights of workers they hire.
The number of people trapped in gang labour employment is considerable, with the use of gang labour now much more widely spread than just in agriculture and first stage food processing.
Historically, this campaign has been spearheaded by the Food and Agriculture sector, but with the link-up with Jim Sheridan, Labour MP for West Renfrewshire, who introduced a Private Members Bill into the Commons on 7th January 2004, the union tackled this issue at a national level.
A synopsis of the Act
The scope of the Gangmasters Licensing Act 2004 is as follows:
The Act applies to the whole of the UK and covers agricultural and horticultural work, shellfish gathering and the processing or packaging of any products derived from these industries/sectors
The Act defines a gangmaster as anyone employing, supplying and or supervising a worker to do work in the sectors outlined; it will apply to gangmasters whether based in the UK or based offshore; and it will also cover all forms of sub-contracting
Employment agencies and employment business (as defined by the Employment Agencies Act 1973) come within the ambit of this Act if they are engaged in activities for which a licence is required under its provisions
The Act extends the full protection of the law to any individual worker undertaking work to which its provisions apply
Gangmasters Licensing Authority
The Act establishes the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. This body will be a Non Departmental Public Body sponsored/funded by Defra. This Licensing Authority:
Will consist of key industry stakeholders and representatives from government and enforcement agencies
Will set the conditions of the licence after consultation; process licence applications; set and collect licence fees; establish a public register of licensed gangmasters; and have the power to modify, suspend or revoke licences
Will proactively enforce the licence conditions and have the ability to investigate and enforce the arrestable offences created under the Bill.
Offences established by the Act
Four specific offences have been established by the Act:
Operating without a licence
Obtaining or possessing a false licence or false documentation which is likely to cause another person to believe that a person acting as a gangmaster is licensed
Using an unlicensed gangmaster (subject to a reasonable steps/due diligence defence)
Obstruction of enforcement officers/compliance officers exercising their functions under the Act
The Act also amends the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to enable the assets of convicted gangmasters to be seized, and also amends the Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to make operating without a licence and/or possession of a false licence/false documentation arrestable offences.
As well as being liable to imprisonment for 12 months if convicted of operating without a licence or possessing a false licence/documents, the Act has added deterrent value by including sentences for repeat offences:
Up to two years imprisonment for a second offence
Up to ten years imprisonment for a third offence
GPW see the successful application for a Gangmasters licence as a very positive step forward and fully supports its principals. It will now allow GPW to expand legally into other market sectors ensuring the high level of service to both its candidates and clients alike.
For more information about the Gangmasters Licensing Authority please visit www.gla.gov.uk.