Case Study Bonded Labour

Employment is freely chosen

Case Study: Bonded labour of UK agency workers

Agency workers from Eastern Europe were working on a farm in the UK. During interviews with workers it became clear that these workers had been introduced to the agency by a ‘middle man’. Workers had paid the ‘middle man’ £150 in their home country and were forced to pay an additional £300 when they arrived in the UK as an introduction fee and accommodation deposit.

For those who did not have the money, the money was ‘loaned’ to them and deductions taken every week from their salary to repay the loan. These middle men purposely recruited people who had very poor levels of English so they would be less able to question their conditions when they got to the UK. The middle men continued to manage and organise these workers on a daily basis. They told the workers that they were not entitled to their own bank accounts and that they had to state his bank account details as their bank account. As a result, all wages were paid into his bank account and payslips sent to him.

Each week he would pay the workers in cash but would take 50p for every hour worked. In addition to this, he would keep back monies to repay ‘loans’ and cover rent. After these deductions were taken, most workers only received £25 for a 30 hour week. This meant they often did not earn enough money to live let alone save anything.

To address this situation, workers were moved into safe accommodation found by the supplier and the supplier arranged for each worker to be set out with their own bank account into which their wages were paid. Payslips were distributed in the workplace so workers knew what money they had earned. The agency stopped dealing with the middle man and started to communicate with each worker directly to organise their work.

In addition to this, the supplier made sure they carried out their own ID checks and checked with workers on how they had been recruited and how they are paid. The agency has completely revised its procedures on bank accounts and contacting workers to ensure this situation does not arise again.

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