Law Centre welcomes English court ruling on human trafficking

Caroline Maguire, employment legal adviser at the Law Centre
Caroline Maguire, employment legal adviser at the Law Centre

Law Centre (NI) has welcomed a recent English court decision in favour of six Lithuanian men who had been severely exploited by the company that employed them as chicken catchers.

The High Court judge ruling in Galdikas & Ors v DJ Houghton Catching Services Ltd & Ors EWHC 1376 (QB) found that the men were not paid the minimum wage for agricultural workers and also found in their favour on other key issues.

They were paid for the number of chickens caught on farms, rather than for time worked at minimum rates including night rates and for time spent travelling.

They were also charged prohibited fees, had wages unlawfully withheld, and did not have adequate facilities to wash, rest, eat and drink.

Caroline Maguire, employment legal adviser at the Law Centre, commented: “It’s the time of year for employing seasonal agricultural workers. Northern Ireland’s employers and people in the supply chain must be aware that there is no place for exploitation in agriculture.

“This judgement is just a first step, as the level of compensation payment still has to be decided. However, the case should act as a warning to exploitative employers.”

The men’s employer had its licence revoked by the GLA in 2012 and 38 workers were referred to the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which confirmed that all the men were victims of trafficking. Sixteen of them are being assisted by law firm Leigh Day.

Ms Maguire continued: “Everyone should be vigilant about signs of hidden exploitation and forced labour, and no-one should be afraid to report such cases.”

The Law Centre has produced an information leaflet for workers to identify signs of labour exploitation and encourage them to seek help. Community organisations, trade unions and others are welcome to contact the Law Centre for free copies of the leaflet.