Six Lithuanians are suing Kent-based gangmaster operation DJ Houghton Catching Services in the High Court, for whom it is alleged that they were trafficked from Lithuania to work, in the first ever case of a UK firm being taken to court for modern slavery-related claims. The men were employed between 2008 and 2012 to catch birds in chicken houses and load them on to trucks bound for processing plants. They claim they were subjected to violence and denied food, sleep and toilet breaks while being driven between farms to work back to back eight-hour shifts.
It is said that a Lithuanian company supplied labour to hundreds of poultry farms across the UK, including many of the largest factory farms producing eggs for leading supermarkets and high street fast food chains.
The firm lost its licence after police raids in 2012 and was branded "the worst UK gangmaster ever" by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).
Meanwhile, Immigration officers will crack down on illegal migrants workers in the construction, care and cleaning industries in autumn 2015 in the latest government measure aimed at creating a "hostile environment" for illegal migration. Enforcement officers will conduct hundreds of raids in the three sectors. A new bill on immigration, due to be published in autumn 2015, is expected to include measures on the shadow economy. See our article,”Immigration Bill: Government proposes new enforcement powers”.
Care homes, building sites and cleaning firms will be “hit from all angles” if they are found to be employing immigrants who are working in the UK illegally, James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, has said.
Speaking to the Times, Brokenshire criticised the companies which provide a draw for migrants by employing them without doing the proper checks that they are legally allowed to be in the country. He said there would be a new round of raids and checks focusing on three sectors: construction, cleaning and care.
“Rogue employers who give jobs to illegal migrants are denying work to UK citizens and legal migrants and helping drive down wages,” Brokenshire said. “Experience tells us that employers who are prepared to cheat employment rules are also likely to breach health and safety rules and pay insufficient tax.
“That’s why our new approach will be to use the full force of government machinery to hit them from all angles and take away the unfair advantage enjoyed by those who employ illegal migrants.”