Stripping the Gangmasters Licensing Authority of powers will put vulnerable workers at risk

Stripping the Gangmasters Licensing Authority of powers will put vulnerable workers at risk, says TUC

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

glaThe Trades Union Congress (TUC) warned on Friday, June 21, 2013 that government plans to strip the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) of powers to regulate the forestry sector, land agents and cleaning contractors operating in the food processing industry would put thousands of vulnerable workers at risk.

Under the new proposals, which could be introduced later this year, agencies in these sectors would no longer have to get a GLA licence before they start operating or be subject to inspections by the GLA.

The GLA will also no longer be able to protect the rights of apprentices supplied through an apprentice training agency, people employed through the government's work programme, or volunteers.

With more than one in four apprentices already paid below the minimum weekly rate, removing some trainees from the GLA remit sends completely the wrong signal about apprenticeships being paid decently and offering a proper introduction to the world of work, says the TUC.

Ministers also say they want 'lighter regulation' when it comes to initial inspections by the GLA, which the TUC says could lead to further abuses in sectors already covered by the GLA and permit rogue operators to return.

In its submission to the government consultation on changes to the GLA remit, which closes today, the TUC warns that watering down the GLA will encourage bad bosses not to comply with health and safety standards, basic employment rights or tax obligations when supplying agency staff.

Instead of reducing the scope of the GLA, its remit should be extended to other high-risk sectors including construction, hospitality and social care, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: “We all remember the horrible events of Morecambe Bay and it defies logic for the government to scale back the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

“The GLA licence is not red tape. It provides vital safeguards for people working in high-risk industries, it ensures that people are paid the minimum wage and makes sure apprentices are not exploited. It also increases consumer confidence that workers who help prepare their food are not being mistreated.

“Rather than reducing the GLA's ability to protect vulnerable workers the government should be looking to extend its licensing powers to other industries such as construction.”

This move to strip the GLA of powers proves, yet again, where the Con-Dem coalition stands with regards to (vulnerable) low-paid workers, namely firmly on the side of the exploiters.

The workers are losing more and more rights and protection under this Tory-led government much in the same way, if not to some degree worse, than under the Thatcher regime of the 1980s.

Thatcher destroyed the trade unions, or at least the power they could wield on behave of the working class, and now the Cameron led coalition is hellbent on finishing the job, so to speak, by removing more and more safeguards that the working class had in unions and similar organizations.

It has to be said, however, that the Labour Party, the party that is supposedly for the working class, when in government under Blair and Brown, also did little to nothing to change the course begun by Thatcher. The anti-union laws were retained and used against unions.

The Labour Party, in fact, has deserted the working class, and this began under so-called “New Labour” and is, no doubt, bound to continue under “One Nation Labour”.

Milliband and his motley crew should be ashamed of themselves for having turned the Labour Party, a party created out of blood and tears as a bulwark for the workers against exploiters and exploitation, into what it has become today. Kier Hardy, Dr Salter and others would turn in their graves if they but knew.

© 2013