The future of the workforce?

Is it just us, or do labour practices appear to be stepping back in time? First Philip Green hit the headlines in the Sunday Times for the alleged use of ‘slave labour’ in the manufacture of his Top Shop clothes. Now a Cornish gangmaster has had its licence revoked for leaving its Bulgarian workers to scavenge for food. What next, bodies of emaciated street urchins getting pulled out of chimneys?

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
The Cornish gangmaster incident, in which 40 workers employed by the Baltic Work Team in Redruth were not paid for more than a month, is merely the latest in a worrying trend of mistreating migrant workers. Hull’s Focus Staff, for instance, lost its licence earlier this year after it was found to be ‘systematically exploiting its employees’. Workers were apparently sleeping 14 to a room, with £50 a week deducted from their wages for the rent.

This is hardly far from the norm in the unscrupulous world of the gangmaster, where people are often employed temporarily and sporadically despite having forked out a chunk of cash on the promise of full-time employment. Workers are often living desperate lives in their home country, fed false promises and brought to these shores, only to have their passports taken away and in some cases receive threats of violence. Meanwhile the Gangmaster Licensing Authority, set up to stop precisely this kind of thing happening in 2005 after 21 Chinese cocklers died at Morecombe Bay, hardly seems on top of the situation.

For a more positive view of the migrant working phenomenon, read our feature on why Britain needs migrants.

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