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Annie Hayes

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Gangmasters exposed as serial exploiters of migrant labour

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The Trades Union Congress (TUC) claim that migrant workers in the UK, including those with the right to work here are subjected to such high levels of exploitation that they meet the legal definition of ‘forced labour’.

This time last year 19 Chinese Morecambe cockle pickers drowned when they were caught by the night tide. The news shocked the UK but still the trafficking goes on.

The TUC, say however, that the problem doesn’t only rest with illegal workers.

General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Tomorrow we will remember the Morecambe Bay tragedy. The government has taken action since then, and we welcome the Gangmasters Bill. But this report shows that more needs to be done.”

The report reveals that migrants who can legally work in this country are also badly exploited because they are unable to enforce their legal rights because of the power their employer has over them:

  • people here on a work permit can be deported if they lose their job, and employers can sack them if they complain

  • people may be dependent on their employer for accommodation or work

  • employers may hold passports

  • people may owe their employer for loans taken out to finance their travel or other arrangements

  • employers can intimidate and threaten staff who do not know their rights, have little or poor English language skills and have no access to alternative support

The TUC argues that migrant workers should benefit from the same rights that apply to every other worker in the UK, and is calling on the government to put much more emphasis on cracking down on employers who break employment law in its ‘managed migration’ policies.

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Annie Hayes

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