Waste and recycling businesses have been urged to help spot labour exploitation, with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) saying the sector has been infiltrated by slavery rackets.
From May, any businesses supplying workers to any part of the UK labour market could be required to obtain a gangmasters licence if the ministers choose to target a particular sector. Under the previous regime, the authority only regulated the agriculture, horticulture, food and drinks packaging and shellfish gathering sectors.
The GLAA will be responsible for issuing licences and tackling non-compliance. It has also taken on further powers to investigate abuse allegations across the entire UK labour market.
This includes failure to pay the national minimum wage and breaches of the Employment Agency Act – and the waste and recycling industry has been identified as a priority sector.
Research indicates that the recycling sector has been infiltrated by slavers and exploiters
Paul Broadbent, GLAA chief executive
Writing exclusively for MRW, GLAA chief executive Paul Broadbent said: “Whether you are the owner of a small firm, a director at one of the UK’s biggest construction companies, a council recycling officer or someone who works on the fringes of the recycling sector, you have a moral and ethical responsibility to prevent people from being forced to work.
”The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) has carried out risk analysis of labour exploitation across the UK. Its research indicates that the recycling sector has been infiltrated by slavers and exploiters. Many of the victims are eastern Europeans trafficked into the UK and then forced to work.”
Broadbent said the GLAA has produced guidance that can help to spot the signs of labour exploitation.
The GLAA, previously the GLA and now governed by the Home Office, will hold its annual conference in London in October. Keynote addresses will be made by the recently appointed director of labour market enforcement David Metcalf and the UK’s first independent anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland.
There are estimated to be between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of slavery in the UK. In 2015, 289 offences were prosecuted and there was a 40% rise in the number of people referred for support.
In September last year, police raided CAP Recycling in Elwell Street, West Bromwich, and sister firm Black Country Recycling in Union Road, Oldbury, for suspected slavery offences.
Some 12 workers were brought in by the police to be ’safeguarded’, five of whom – three Polish men and a Slovakian man and woman – were identified as victims.
A total of four men have since been arrested under modern slavery charges.
This article was updated on 28 April 2017 to correct an inaccuracy. It originally stated that all workforce sectors would be obligated to obtain a GLAA licence.