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