July 28, 2022 11.17 am

Modern slavery investigations at over 20 Lincolnshire car washes

Issues surrounding poor work conditions and low pay

More than 20 hand car washes in Lincolnshire were visited by the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse authority as part of a national crackdown on modern slavery.

During the three-week national operation, the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority visited almost 200 hand car washes across the country, targeting modern slavery and labour exploitation.

Officers spoke to more than 600 workers at 180 sites during a three-week period in June. Some 22 of these were in Lincolnshire, with 15 in the Lincolnshire County Council area, and a further seven in North and North East Lincolnshire.

Some of the issues highlighted included a lack of contracts of employment for workers, no tax or National Insurance payments, little to no PPE, illegal working, false recording of hours and no sick pay or annual leave.

The intelligence gathered by agencies like the GLAA indicate that car wash workers can often be forced to work excessively long hours in poor conditions for very low pay.

The most extreme cases of modern slavery at car washes sees workers live in fear of those exploiting them, due to threats of violence, abuse and control in cycles of debt.

The Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority say it is also highly likely that these hand car washes where modern slavery is identified can be used to enable other high profile organised crime, such as money laundering.

Investigations are ongoing for all visits, and while no enforcement action took place at the time, intelligence was gathered and workers were interviewed to establish what, if any, offences took place.

GLAA Head of Enforcement Ian Waterfield said: “This was a significant undertaking by our organisation and our partners across law enforcement. We have once again demonstrated the effectiveness of our work in protecting vulnerable and exploited workers.

“It’s no understatement to say that the visits have thrown up hundreds of lines of enquiry that we are actively following up.

“Sadly the issues we discovered are replicated at many hand car washes up and down the country. It’s not just how some of these premises exploit their workers though; there are numerous problems related to health and safety, trading standards and environmental breaches which are also concerning.

“I can’t stress how significant a role the public has in putting an end to these exploitative practices. If the hand car wash you visit only charges you £2 for a wash, the workers washing your car will not be being paid the National Minimum Wage. And if they are not receiving the pay that they are entitled to, it’s highly likely that many of their other employment rights will be being ignored and disregarded.”