Gangmaster case due to be heard today
A COURT case involving around 20 dairy farmers accused of employing labour from an unlicensed provider is due to be heard at Swindon Magistrates Court today (Friday, May 20).
The case, which involves some of the biggest names in the dairy industry, including NFU vice-president Gwyn Jones, has already been adjourned twice
The cases are all linked to a long-running investigation by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) into Wiltshire-based labour provider Marden Management.
The GLA began its investigation into the company last spring after discovering it did not have a GLA licence, as required by companies supplying labour in the farming industry. The GLA has also investigated the rates of pay received by workers supplied by Marden.
More than 50 farmers and organisations who hired labour from the company were questioned in the initial stages of the investigation.
Twenty-one of those, also including the University of Reading, were summonsed to appear in court, initially in February and then, after that hearing was adjourned, in March. Following a second adjournment the case was rescheduled for today.
In a statement earlier this year, the GLA said it was conducting a ‘major inquiry into labour supply, potential exploitation of workers and offences within the dairy industry’.
The statement added that the unlicensed supply of labour and the use of an unlicensed gangmaster are both criminal offences under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004.
In a statement last year, Marden Management managing director Chris Blakeney, who is not among those charged, said the company had made an innocent mistake.
“Marden has not previously had a GLA licence as, having taken advice, our interpretation of the exclusion clauses when the GLA legislation was first introduced led us to believe that our business was exempt,” he said.