Croxwell Rd GLA

Workers were forced to live in squalid conditions

A gangmaster supplying labour to two Kent fresh produce businesses has become the first to have her licence suspended under new powers after workers were placed in squalid accommodation, paid less than the minimum wage and had their holiday pay withheld.

Tajinder Singh’s company Superior Service Co Ltd was a labour provider licensed by the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority until the suspension and subsequent revocation of his licence last month. Seven adults and a small child were found to be sleeping on mattresses on the floor in a three-bedroom property rented out by her to her workers in south-east London.

A further 10 adults and two children were living in another of her three-bedroom rental properties in the same area. Workers were forced to buy their own personal protective equipment and to travel in cramped conditions in vehicles that were inadequately insured.

Singh also tried to deceive GLA inspectors when interviewed, denying that she rented the properties to her workers or even owned them.

Her business became the first to have its licence suspended by the GLA under the new policy, which provides a swift response to serious breaches of licensing conditions and stops companies trading immediately.

While inspectors carried out their evidence-gathering in the aftermath of the suspension, they found Singh’s company had failed five different critical standards, any one of which was sufficient to have resulted in the suspension of her licence. The licence was then revoked and Singh missed the 10 June deadline to lodge an appeal.

The GLA has since taken action to find alternative accommodation for the workers involved and alternative employment directly with the farms they worked at or with other licence holders.

GLA chief executive Paul Broadbent said: “With a remit to protect vulnerable workers, the GLA is satisfied with an outcome that removed those involved from being exploited, while dealing swiftly with the company responsible.Though a GLA licence requires the holder to comply with several strict standards, there was scant regard for a good number of them in this case.

“Workers were forced to live and travel in poor and cramped conditions and were denied payments to which they were legitimately entitled on a major scale.”

When the workers were questioned, all said they were denied all or some payments when they took leave. Further investigations at the company offices unearthed almost £250,000 worth of holiday entitlements, which had gone unpaid during the last two financial years.

Singh’s licence was suspended on 16 May and revoked with immediate effect on 24 May.