Unite is concerned that young Polish workers, some of whom are members of Unite, employed by salad and vegetable preparation company Just Prepared are forced to work all day in sodden clothing, cannot access toilets during a shift without permission and at times work up to 16 hours a day. They have no contracts of employment, no training in the safe use of knives and inadequate protective clothing. One worker cut himself on the hand so badly he almost severed a ligament, but was prevented from obtaining necessary hospital treatment. Two young Polish workers were dismissed when they spoke out.
Unite is challenging their dismissal and wants the employer to address urgently employment and health and safety abuses at the company. Unite regional industrial officer, Adrian Jones, said: 'These workers have experienced a very distressing time at the hands of their employer, who made the most of their vulnerability and isolation to work them as hard as they possibly could without due regard for the workers' health or safety. It is Dickensian, more in line with the nineteenth than the twenty-first century and another case of the sweatshop abuse of migrant workers.'
Although the employer operates in the gangmasters-regulated sector - this covers agriculture and food processing - the Gangmasters Licensing Authority has no remit to intervene to protect these workers because the company is supplying a product and not labour. 'This is a serious loophole,' he said. 'Bad employers do not fear the law, either because they know they can escape detection or because, as in this case, the law does not reach them.'
Unite press release