THE scandal of the gangmasters has caused uproar in the working class, but the leaders of the trade union movement are helping to cover the gangmasters in a cloak of respectability after the establishment of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
Yesterday it emerged that the authority has revoked the licence of one of the gangmasters, Baltic Work Team Limited, based in Redruth, Cornwall.
The company had already had its licence revoked in February – but was allowed on appeal to carry on operating and ‘put their house in order’, before re-applying for a new licence.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority was forced to intervene when it was reported that, despite being given a second chance, the company had left 40 Bulgarian workers unpaid.
Paul Whitehouse, the chairman of the gangmasters authority, said the workers had been reduced to such a state that they were scavenging the fields for potatoes to feed themselves.
It also alleged that they were forced to work for a day without food and water, before the authority was forced to intervene a second time, revoking the company’s licence with immediate effect. It is now due to appeal again!
The scandal of the gangmasters was brought to nationwide attention by the deaths of the Chinese cocklepickers at Morecambe Bay in 2004. Over 20 workers drowned.
But despite the outcry that this caused, the leadership of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) did not immediately press for the abolition of all gangmasters. Instead, the TGWU leaders pressed for the ‘regulation’ of the gangmasters by pushing for a Gangmasters Bill to be passed by parliament.
They succeeded, and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority was established.
When a spokesman for the TGWU was asked by News Line for a comment yesterday, he insisted that ‘gangmasters have a role to play in the rural economy’. Their spokesman added: ‘The point about good gangmasters is that they are actually providing bona fide employment.’
News Line says there are no ‘good’ gangmasters. The gangmasters are now legal, thanks to the TGWU leaders supporting giving them the right to exploit low-paid workers as very cheap labour, harvesting crops, gathering shellfish or packing food.
The TGWU leaders are working hand in glove with the government, which has decreed under new immigration laws that workers from Bulgaria and Romania can work in Britain for six months, but only in ‘third tier’ jobs like the unskilled work on farms that the 40 workers in Redruth signed up for.
Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in January this year. Workers from Poland and other eastern European countries have no such restrictions placed upon them.
However, they have been encouraged to become private contractors in the construction industry in particular.
In other words, Bulgarian and Romanian workers are ‘free’ to work, but only for the gangmasters, and for just six months, with the agreement of the TGWU leaders, whilst workers from Poland and other impoverished countries are ‘free’ to come and be exploited, often as ‘self-employed’ workers at cut-price rates without employment rights in construction and other industries.
The TUC said yesterday that it frequently receives anonymous reports of gangmasters exploiting these workers and of illegal deductions from workers’ pay packets.
But so far it has done little, if anything, to stop this exploitation which is now rife.
Two years since the Chinese cockle pickers’ deaths, it is high time a new leadership was built in the unions that will put an end to all the gangmasters by bringing down this government and establishing a socialist government that will outlaw the cheap labour and dangerous working conditions that now flourish in ‘Brown’s Britain’.