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Cornish gangmaster revoked after string of issues uncovered

29 January 2018

A Cornish gangmaster who systematically exploited her workers through skimming off their pay, sending them to work double shifts with insufficient breaks and charging them to live in unhygienic and unsafe caravans has been shut down by the Gangmsters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

Neringa Butkeviciute operated her business DNK Recruitment out of the Bosparva Caravan Park in Leedstown, Hayle, where she provided workers for various roles in the GLAA regulated sector.

But an inspection was carried out to check on how the licence holder was running her business after DNK was reported to the authority.

The GLAA found Ms Butkeviciute sent her workers out with insufficient breaks to boost her own profits, failed to pay them all they were due and also charged for accommodation in caravans that were deemed both unsanitary and unsafe.

Human waste was discovered leaking from sewage pipes under one caravan.

Her company failed eight of the authority’s Licensing Standards – four of them ‘critical’ – racking up a total of 144 penalty points. (A licence can be revoked after the discovery of one critical failure which carries 30 points.)

The GLAA’s Head of Licensing Charlotte Woodliffe said she had no sympathy for Ms Butkeviciute who had shown a flagrant disregard for the safety and welfare of her employees.

“Having read through the evidence we uncovered in this case it was clear that the profits of the company appeared to be the only concern for DNK Recruitment,” she said.

“No care or concern was shown about whether the workers were being treated fairly, receiving the correct amounts of time off and wages or were housed in safe and sanitary living accommodation.

“The GLAA licensing scheme exists to protect vulnerable workers. In cases like this, where the bottom line appears to be the only thing that matters at the cost of the health and safety of its employees then we have no hesitation in taking away a gangmaster’s licence.”

Enquiries found that the 29-year-old businesswoman from Camborne had been providing workers to harvest and process crops at a nearby vegetable producer as well as a seafood processing factory in the South West.

But when DNK was inspected last month serious issues were uncovered with the way the business was being run by Miss Butkeviciute.

Worker accommodation was a major concern after issues were found with the caravans being used including: leaking waste pipes; broken doors and windows; mould on walls, curtains and windows; a leaking shower that had caused the floor in one van to collapse; general overcrowding; defective smoke detectors and electric heaters placed close to bedding.

There were also insufficient washing and laundry facilities, which left workers no choice but to wear damp clothes, while the laundry room floor was covered in water despite the room containing electrical equipment.

An examination of a random selection of timesheets demonstrated that workers were not receiving statutory 11 hour rest breaks between shifts and in some cases were also not getting two days off per fortnight that is required under the Working Time Regulations 1998.

In one example found, one worker started work at 17:47 at a fish processing factory, finished at 04:17 the next day then was supplied by DNK to work at another site from 06:00 to 18:30. Over a two-day period the employee worked 24 hours and 43mins with a break of only 1hr 43min.

Another example saw a worker supplied every day between 2 July and 19 July 2017 - a total of 18 consecutive days. On 13 – 14 July the same worker had a break of only 2hrs 59mins between shifts.

Some DNK employees revealed at interview that they had not been given contracts by DNK and were not paid for attending training or induction sessions.

The company was also effectively withholding Holiday Pay by calculating it incorrectly in their favour based on hourly rates instead of the much higher ‘piece rates’ their workers were entitled to.

Out of five samples checked, all the employees were found to have been owed between £31 and £198 in Holiday Pay.

DNK has not appealed the revocation decision and is understood to have ceased trading and vacated the caravan park in Hayle. The workers have found alternative employment.

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