Unite union demands probe into Transline gangmasters

Written By: Ian Hernon
Published: February 11, 2017 Last modified: February 11, 2017

The Unite general union has called for an investigation into the recruitment agency Transline.

Assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Transline, the recruitment agency involved, has already got form when it comes to the exploitation of workers, having had its licence to operate in the food and agriculture sector taken away by the authorities. There now needs to be a full scale investigation into Transline’s behaviour and employment practices.

“Companies using recruitment agencies such as Transline also need to take a long hard look at the behaviour of the agencies they use. Pointing the finger and trying to abdicate responsibility is morally wrong and will not avoid the reputational damage that comes with cases such as these.”

The union also called on the government to fully fund the new Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, formerly the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA).

Two and a half years ago, a major West Yorkshire recruitment business – Qualitycourse Limited, of Halifax Road, Brighouse, which trades as Transline – was denied a licence by the GLA.

A separate application submitted by Transline Europe Limited was also refused as directors who had failed the “fit and proper” test for Qualitycourse were also named on this company’s board.

The Channel 4 programme Dispatches described how Transline used to supply workers to a factory in Bolton, which makes own brand pizzas for Britain’s biggest retailers.

When the GLA inspectors called in 2013, they didn’t like what they found. Transline was running a salary sacrifice scheme, paying workers partly in expenses and partly in wages. The GLA found Transline was likely not to be paying “adequate tax and National Insurance contributions”. The GLA reviewed a sample of payslips and found that some workers were receiving much less than the National Minimum Wage “some … significantly so”. In fact, one worker was paid just £2.87 an hour before expenses.

Transline advised the GLA that they were employing apprentices. This is significant because apprentices in their first year of work get a much lower rate of National Minimum Wage – in 2012-13 it was just £2.65 an hour.

However, the GLA found the “workers interviewed did not consider they were employed as apprentices”. The GLA ruled that Transline had failed its licensing standard by not paying the National Minimum Wage, and also found Transline’s managing directors Paul Beasley (pictured right) and Jon Taylor (pictured left) not “fit and proper” persons to hold a GLA licence, meaning Transline can no longer supply workers into food production. But they were and are free to do in other sectors.

Transline claimed: “At no point have Transline paid below the National Minimum Wage”. They said they have invested in software which prevents a worker from being paid less than the “applicable National Minimum Wage” and ensures employee aren’t worse off through the salary sacrifice scheme. “Such safeguards and systems are specifically designed to ensure that Transline do not break the law.”

About Ian Hernon

Ian Hernon is Deputy Editor of Tribune