A West Midlands gangmaster who was not paying pea and sprout pickers the minimum wage has been removed from the industry.
Sahra Rizwan, managing director of labour firm Black Country-based A N Recruitment, near Birmingham, was stripped of her licence last year, but appealed against the decision.
But the appeal fell through after a judge ruled that, as the principal licence holder, Rizwan was liable for not paying minimum wage, holiday pay and failing the GLA competency test.
In addition, there were insufficient risk assessments, necessary protective equipment was not provided and training documents were only made available in English – despite the fact most workers could not read them.
Judge Victoria Dean said: “The principal authority must remain compliant with the licensing standards at all times and should be prepared to face the consequences if she is not.
“The appellant’s failures, particularly in relation to the critical standards, are a serious dereliction of duty and to allow her simply to rectify those matters would undermine entirely the ethos of the legislation. The decision of the GLA shall stand.”
Rizwan was also found to be working for an accountancy firm for the majority of the week, leaving workers’ pay to be decided by a supervisor and the grower.
“Our findings suggested we had uncovered a case of someone being put up merely to act as ‘a front’ for a business - and the appeal judge fully backed our assessment,” said GLA chief executive Paul Broadbent.
“Though run and licensed in Mrs Rizwan’s name, it soon became apparent she had very little control over the day-to-day running of this company – primarily because she was working elsewhere for the majority of each week.
“She lacked much of the basic knowledge we would expect a managing director to know about her company’s operations – like the hourly rates her business charged to provide field workers to a farm.
“But the most important thing is that we’ve removed another non-compliant operator from our sector and prevented these field workers from being exploited by receiving pay rates below the legal minimum.”
The GLA has won 94 per cent of appeals against its decisions and has not lost a case since April 2010.