UK employers who hire illegal workers are being named and shamed on the website of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which is responsible for controlling migration into the UK.
The crackdown on employers that break the law is part of a nationwide campaign by the agency, which said its officers and staff will be deployed into 70 to 80 local immigration teams across the UK and will work along side the police to prevent illegal labour practices.
Companies that continue to hire those without the right to work in the UK now face fines of up to £10,000 per illegal worker and details about the fines paid and number of illegal workers hired by particular companies are being disclosed on the UKBA's website.
The UKBA said that that it provides guidance and information on its website in relation to migrant employment issues to help employers ensure they are compliant with legislation.
"Illegal working hurts good business, undercuts legal workers and creates illegal profits. It also puts illegal workers themselves at great risk. By working together with employers we can level the playing field and tackle the exploitation of vulnerable migrants," claims the agency.
Food firm practices
In March, the UK Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA), a governmental body set up to curb the exploitation of workers, alleged that a gangmaster was exploiting workers he supplied to three UK food firms - British Bakeries, Thorntons and Florette.
Anybody who supplies workers to the agriculture, shellfish gathering and food and drink processing and packaging sectors in the UK needs to be licensed by the GLA, or they risk prosecution and imprisonment of up to 10 years.
According to the GLA, Robert Taylor, director of Momentus, was keeping several workers in his care in cramped conditions, with uncertified electricity and gas provisions. The authority also claims that Taylor was illegally paying the workers less than minimum wage for their work at companies in question.
British Bakeries manufactures bread under the Hovis, Mothers Pride and Nimble, while Thorntons and Florette are leading chocolate and bagged salad producers respectively.
Taylor has now had his license revoked, the GLA said.
Protection of workers
"Yet again we see that the food on our plates on dinner tables across the UK could be there at the expense of exploited workers," said GLA chairman Paul Whitehouse.
He also said he is "determined" to stamp out worker abuse in the UK.
"Any group of workers who are dependent on consumer demand for a weekly job should at least expect to receive the minimum wage and the protection of UK law," he said.
"We support the decision to name and shame certain companies as a way of reinforcing the importance of the law," the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) told FoodProductionDaily.com
The FDF said that it has had representation on the board of the GLA and has ensured through close liaison that its members are well informed regarding their responsibilities.
"We deplore the use of unlicensed labour providers and welcome the work that the GLA are doing to enforce the Act," added the spokesperson.
These kinds of cases are not exclusive to Europe, as last year's raids on factories belonging to Del Monte, Tyson and Smithfield in the US demonstrated.
In the case of Del Monte, a number of workers at the company were arrested during the raids last June for having social security numbers that belonged to other persons or that were made up.
The European Commission is looking at implementing action over illegal hiring practices, and has proposed an EU-wide law that would expose food managers across the bloc to fines and possible jail time.
The Commission is also proposing an EU-wide requirement that all employers undertake specific checks before recruiting a third-country national and notify national regulators.
Under the requirements, member states would be required to pass laws imposing criminal penalties against those who have repeatedly infringed the law, who are caught employing a significant number of illegal labourers, who operate using exploitative working conditions, or know that the worker is a victim of human trafficking.