Memorandum submitted by Farmforce
Originally, a very adequate licensing system
was introduced in 1973 (document PL 919) in line with the white
paper on employment. The legislation required all gangmasters/agencies
to be licensed. The cost was £400 per year, which involved
compliance with the Employment Agencies and Employment Business
regulations (white paper 1976 No 715). Any agency applying for
a license was obliged to publish its application in the local
newspaper, giving the opportunity for persons with any grievances
to contact the Department of Employment (who were responsible
for the licensing) to provide them with relevant information.
Under this scheme the department of employment
made two visits a year to the address of the agency/gangmaster
to check all relevant records, applications forms and pay deduction
details were being correctly administered.
Unfortunately, the government of the day decided
to scrap the scheme in 1994. I can only surmise this was carried
out by the change of legislation in the EU, making room for the
development of machinery rings, which included local casual labour
Prior to licensing, gang labour was completely
out of control and in some cases very violent. The police usually
accompanied inspections in areas such as Lincolnshire and Norfolk.
The implementation of the licensing procedure
was fairly successful, with the revenue from the license coverings
operational costs to a large extent. It also gave the necessary
powers to Tax, NI, VAT & Department of Employment to implement
legislation, allowing the imposition of heavy fines to those who
breached the regulations.
It also gave a vehicle to employees to voice
and complaints without retaliation by the agency/gangmaster.
The conclusions drawn about gangmasters are
similar to those on previous occasions, although overseas workers
were not so prevalent at that time.
1. Farmers are dependent on casual workers,
but do not wish to pay legal rates of pay. Demand for casual labour
2. Supermarkets do play an important role
in this matter. Their pricing controls have created the situation
where it is uneconomic for directly employed labour to exist in
the horticultural/food sector. The main requirement is for as
large a profit as possible at any cost. Perhaps guidance of on
farm crops pricing is necessary for Supermarket buyers, which
would certainly help to resolve the employment situation. Supermarkets
do lay down strict requirement for produce production, but do
not mirror those requirements for incoming goods produced outside
3. As a company we have never heard of operation
4. The title definition of a gangmaster/employment
agency needs to be clarified. Are their rights under the employment
law etc., the same?
5. MAFF booklet! We have never heard or
seen any such booklet.
6. As a Company we have continued to voluntarily
operate the requirements under the 1975 employment agencies white
paper. We feel this sets a standard, which could easily followed
throughout the U.K. with the assistance of the relevant computer
7. Cost, to a certain extent the licensing
charges will make the system self financing.
8. SAWS. This is a problem area for bonafide
agencies. Allowing SAWS personal to carry out work outside their
remit, which is traditionally carried out by U.K. workers leads
to cancellation of agency bookings, redundancies and fewer full
time workers. To supply agency staff, which have Tax, N.I., holidays
and work time restrictions is expensive. Staff from SAWS are less
experienced and cheap.
SAWS staff are not always provided with the
best of conditions, Farmers can send them to other Farms without
the necessary checks, and in a great many cases without Tax and
Trading by our Company has been affected, with
a 75% reduction for seasonal harvesting work and cultivation's.
At present Dairying positions are being cancelled, with staff
from Poland being supplied by a gangmaster, although these people
do not have any experience they are cheap, 50% less than normal
charges with probably no NI or Tax deductions. These workers will
be out of work when the booking has been completed, when they
will, like the rest telephone us to find them alternative work,
whether or not they have the relevant visa.
9. It would be a great improvement if a
licensing system were introduced nationally. This would improve
conditions for both agencies and workers.
10. For assistance with information concerning
gangmasters and agency work, may I suggest you contact all previously
11. If a licensing system was introduced,
a national standard could be achieved, hopefully halting the loss
of full time U.K. agricultural workers.
12. Farmers on the whole look at the price
before checking quality. When they have a fixed price contract,
labour costs have to fit around the cost structure.
13. The NFU and Farmers overall think that
legislation can be side stepped and alternatives be found. The
NFU is a talking shop, lacking action on its own policies.
14. A structure is required to police the
overseas labour situation. All labour should have Tax and NI deducted
immediately they commence work in the UK. This would avoid unfair
competition to the indigenous working population, in other words
put a stop to artificially low priced labour.
15. Artificially priced labour is creating
redundancies among full time workers. The long term's effect will
be very serious.
16. Improvement of the supply of information
regarding overseas workers, requirements etc. is a must.
To surmise, reintroduction of a licensing system
is an urgent requirement due to the introduction of overseas workers
and the SAWS & HOPS scheme.
The problem with people on the schemes, they
are being passed around to other Farmers not within the schemes
remit, has become fairly common. We now have overseas workers
carrying out work which is not scheduled under the schemes, with
unofficial gangmasters collecting fees eg (Farmers).
This type of work would normally be carried
out by skilled U.K. workers, but the attraction of low labour
charges, which usually means no NI or Tax the UK workers are being
undercut, making it very difficult for them to find seasonal harvesting,
tractor work and dairywork in their locality or in some cases
nationally. This is leading to an exodus of agricultural workers
to other employment.
The long-term picture for British Labour on
farms is fairly bleak. When the extensification of the EU is completed
with equalisation across the board, evening up pay rates, the
cheap labour aspect will disappear, leaving a black hole where
British agricultural labour should be, which will be impossible
to fill. Action is urgently required. We look to you for this
7 April 2003