SHADOW Business Minister Ian Murray has highlighted the important role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority -; and called on the Government to ensure the GLA’s powers remain robust.
The GLA exists to regulate those who supply workers to provide services in industries such as agriculture, forestry, horticulture, shellfish gathering, food processing and packaging.
It was established in 2005 in the wake of a tragedy in Morecambe Bay that claimed the lives of 23 cockle-pickers, who had been organised by a so-called ‘gangmaster’.
Since then the GLA has played a vital role in the regulation of organised labour. But its future is now subject to the Government’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’ and Ministers “Star Chamber”.
Today (Tuesday 21 February) Mr Murray, MP for Edinburgh South, secured a Westminster Hall debate on the Future of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
Commenting on the debate, he said: “Until the tragic deaths of the 23 cockle-pickers in Morecambe Bay in 2004, the term ‘gangmaster’ had fallen out of use. But that incident led to a much wider debate about those who organised casual workers -; and sometimes those who exploited them.
“The Gangmasters Licensing Authority was set up to regulate those ‘gangmasters’ who supplied workers in industries that include agriculture and food processing.
“It has already proved to be a life-saving body that safeguards the welfare of some of the most vulnerable groups of workers; protecting them from exploitation and modern day slavery.”
Mr Murray pointed to GLA figures that show that in 2010/11 the organisation identified 845 cases of workers being exploited and that their work led to 33 licences being revoked.
He welcomed previous suggestions that the Government had no plans to abolish the GLA -; but raised concerns about the role of the GLA remained under review.
Mr Murray said: “There has been significant confusion caused by the Government’s Red Tape Challenge. But the Minister needs to be crystal clear that there will be no watering down of the GLA and its powers.
“This is not about counting paper clips but saving lives, preventing exploitation, promoting clean supply chains, exposing organised criminal activity and undermining human trafficking.
“The GLA was set up on the back of a horrendous tragedy. Any reduction in the remit of the GLA would put vulnerable workers at risk of exploitation, modern slavery and perhaps even death.”

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