A Scottish gangmaster has been stripped of her licence after Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) officers found her workers were underpaid and had been transported in a dangerous vehicle.
Sole trader Sheila Wood of Drumlithie, Stonehaven, also admitted in interview that she lacked the required competencies to run her business, which comprised daffodils and potatoes. Her licence was revoked with immediate effect last month (September 2015).
That decision has now been finalised because no appeal was lodged prior to the lapse of the deadline for submission.
When the former headteacher’s business was inspected, it emerged that she had failed to comply with a number of licensing standards, thus putting the safety of her workers at risk.
GLA chief executive Paul Broadbent said: “This licence was revoked immediately because the holder exhibited a flagrant disregard for the wellbeing of her employees.
“She transported them in a van after it was deemed ‘dangerous’ during an MOT inspection, and failed seven other GLA licensing standards, which are there specifically to protect vulnerable workers.
“She also appeared to lack the required skills and knowledge to run a compliant business and worked with a convicted illegal gangmaster – factors which both weighed heavily against her when making our decision.”
Six separate faults were found with the vehicle used to transport workers - two of them rendering it ‘dangerous’, in the opinion of the MOT tester.
Despite this, the workers employed to pick daffodils and grade potatoes were still being carried in the same van in August - driven to farms by convicted unlicensed gangmaster Rimantas Sulcas.
Sulcas received a Community Payback Order in May 2014 when he was convicted of unlicensed labour provision to potato farms in Aberdeenshire and Angus.
From the outset, when applying for her licence, the 57-year-old was informed that her acquaintance, Sulcas, must not be involved in her business operations without express permission from the GLA. This permission was never sought, leading Wood to breach this specified additional condition attached to her licence and also to fail the GLA’s ‘fit and proper person’ test. Both were critical requirements for retaining her licence.
It was also found that workers had not been paid the overtime they were entitled to in accordance with the Agricultural Wages Order (Scotland), and their handwritten payslips were deemed unacceptable, which led to the failure of two further standards.
Breaches of GLA Licensing Standards result in penalty points with a total of 30 points leading to the revocation of a licence.
Wood accrued a total of 174 points from failing five critical (30 point) and three non-critical (8 point) standards.