RIGA - Residents from Latvia who found jobs as fruit pickers in Great Britain via the employment agency Plus Staff 24 had to live in appalling conditions, says a story in the British media, reports news agency LETA. The British authorities revoked Plus Staff 24’s license and the company has been named Britain’s worst company of this kind by the British media.
Plus Staff 24 mostly hired guest workers for employment at various factories, farms and similar unskilled jobs. There are many such companies in Great Britain because of the major influx of guest workers. Frequently guest workers are paid less than the minimum wage and live in substandard conditions.
To combat the abuse doled out by these companies, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) was established four years ago to supervise the work of employment agencies and license them.
In the case of Plus Staff 24, GLA inspectors found a group of over 30 fruit pickers from Latvia who were forced to live in appalling conditions. They worked for below minimum wages, were not given holiday pay and had to live in squalid conditions, the GLA said.
Adding to the international flavor of this type of employment, each morning they were taken to work in the fields in an uninsured minibus that usually was driven by an underage Portuguese driver who did not have a driver’s license.
Furthermore, the workers had part of their wages - usually the largest part - deducted for this “commuter service” and accommodation. At least one fruit picker did not earn anything after months of work, and even ended up owing money to the boss. If workers needed money, they were offered loans with 6 percent interest.
Those who found jobs via Plus Staff 24 had to hand in their passports - so they could not flee the country.
This is a flagrant abuse of power over workers, said Paul Whitehouse of the GLA. “When a human being has worked hard for a month and gets paid nothing, after deductions, and even owes the gangmaster money, how are they supposed to survive?”
Whitehouse said he believed Plus Staff 24 was set up as a front after Maria Baptista, who ran Maria Recruitment Solutions, Limited, failed to get her license renewed.