Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 48-59)

Wednesday 7 May 2003

Mrs Marilyn Day

  Q48  Chairman: Welcome to the Committee. Would you like to identify yourself?

  Mrs Day: My name is Mrs Day. I have been in the industry of supply of labour, albeit gang master or employment, since—

  Q49  Chairman: You are a gang mistress, are you?

  Mrs Day: I am afraid so, a rather elderly one.

  Q50  Chairman: What is the politically correct word which would embrace both masters and mistresses?

  Mrs Day: We are just gang masters. There is also a second definition which has never been clarified where you are an employment agency within agriculture. You go either side of the fence. We prefer to be known as employment agencies which is a less harsh phrase.

  Q51  Mrs Shephard: I would like to ask you first of all whether or not you use foreign workers.

  Mrs Day: Only with the correct entrance visas, mostly South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders. Employment agencies, under the old regulations, are not supposed to use overseas labour and we cannot apply for visas.

  Q52  Mrs Shephard: Even if those workers are from Europe?

  Mrs Day: If they are from the EC, no problem. We have a variety of workers now but they tend not to come through on any scheme so they are within the EC.

  Q53  Mrs Shephard: Are you able to give the Committee any idea of the numbers of people that your group employs who might come from outside these shores?

  Mrs Day: We are looking at between 50 and 60 experienced workers. The higher tier workers with livestock and tractor driving have to have all the relevant qualifications which a lot of the people who come in now do not. They are on the bottom of the scale. They are the ones that get the worst treatment, I am afraid.

  Q54  Mrs Shephard: Would you like to explain briefly why Farmforce does not provide unskilled labour for seasonal work?

  Mrs Day: Because I do not want to be mixed up with that sort of activity. From my past experience when we first started, before licensing, it was not a pleasant thing to be mixed up in and I am afraid it is back where we started.

  Q55  Mrs Shephard: Do you think that there has been a reversion?

  Mrs Day: Yes. We are almost getting to third world levels.

  Q56  Mrs Shephard: Would you like to say something about your experience of gang masters who operate outside the law? I think it is very important to put on the record that not all do.

  Mrs Day: Some of them are very good. There is a gentleman in the Midlands at the moment. You have probably seen The Farmer's Guardian. He is going along very much the same trail as I do. He wants to train, maintain and boost the people we have in the industry now rather than lose them to cheap labour that is coming in and driving them out. Altogether, my experience is not good and we have rescued quite a few in the past and retrained them.

  Q57  Mrs Shephard: You mean workers?

  Mrs Day: Yes. Some of the conditions they live in now are not acceptable, even though they are supposed to be inspected. They are not. There is an awful lot of illegal labour living in ex-chicken shacks. Living on foam rubber is not my idea of comfort.

  Q58  Mrs Shephard: Do you want to say anything more about that?

  Mrs Day: Do I have to?

  Q59  Mrs Shephard: No. Do you feel there might be some sort of retaliation?

  Mrs Day: Yes. That is why I have not spoken to the press before I came to this meeting.

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