No place for exploitation in agriculture
It’s the time of year for seasonal workers in Northern Ireland. Law Centre (NI) stresses that there is no place for modern slavery in agriculture. Employers and people in the supply chain should be aware of a recent English court decision in favour of exploited chicken catchers.
The Law Centre welcomes the court's judgement in favour of six Lithuanian men who had been severely exploited by the company that employed them as chicken catchers.
The judge found that the men were not paid the minimum wage for agricultural workers and also found in their favour on other key issues.
They were paid for the number of chickens caught on farms, rather than for time worked at minimum rates including night rates and for time spent travelling. They were also charged prohibited fees, had wages unlawfully withheld, and did not have adequate facilities to wash, rest, eat and drink.
Caroline Maguire, employment legal adviser at Law Centre (NI), commented:
“It’s the time of year for employing seasonal agricultural workers. Northern Ireland’s employers and people in the supply chain must be aware that there is no place for exploitation in agriculture.
This judgement is just a first step, as the level of compensation payment still has to be decided. However, the case should act as a warning to exploitative employers.”
The men’s employer had its licence revoked by the GLA in 2012 and 38 workers were referred to the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which confirmed that all the men were victims of trafficking. Sixteen of them are being assisted by law firm Leigh Day.
Caroline Maguire added: "Everyone should be vigilant about signs of hidden exploitation and forced labour, and people should not be afraid to report such cases."
The Law Centre has produced an information leaflet for workers to identify signs of labour exploitation and encourage them to seek help (picture below: Stephen Farry MLA and Sinead Mulhern, Law Centre (NI), launching 'Problems at Work?' leaflet)