On Thursday (3 December) BBC Look North carried a report which it claimed had “lifted the lid” on “allegations of modern slavery in the fields of Lincolnshire.”
Reporter Linsey Smith said many eastern European migrants working in fields and packhouses in Lincolnshire felt “abused, exploited and worthless.” One unnamed woman who was prepared to appear on camera said her former supervisor regularly offered female workers money in exchange for sex. Ms Smith said she had interviewed ten migrants and had heard “countless” other anecdotes about poor treatment.
The programme said that the complaints referred to “several” different gangmasters, but it focused primarily on Boston-based Local Link Recruitment as an undercover reporter “experienced at first hand the high pressure environment.” Specific allegations included a lack of waterproof clothing, working at night, a lack of ‘safety gloves’, wage deductions for transport and that Rafal Czerwiak, who was filmed during the report, was acting as an un-licenced gangmaster.
In a statement Local Link Managing Director Iowna Lebiedowicz denied all of the allegations and stressed that Mr Czerwiak runs his own business, Viva Bonta Ltd, which provided transport for Local Link. In addition she stressed that, “All staff are provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) including high-visibility jackets, wellington boots, gloves and wet weather clothing and supervisors have spare equipment in their vehicles. Workers who want to wear their own PPE are welcome to do so; however, we are required to check that it is up to an acceptable standard for their own protection.”
On Look North, Boston & Skegness MP Matt Warman commented, “It’s shocking and depressing that it’s still going on. This is an issue I have raised with the Home Secretary.” He also referred to the Government’s consultation on the future of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.