This year’s harvest looks to be an even more challenging affair than normal with the added complications of COVID-19 and the risks to workers. For most vineyards this is the time of highest demand for staff and a large proportion of pickers will be seasonal workers supplied via viticultural contractors like Vine-Works. Growers clearly need to know that the staff they are supplied with are reliable, hardworking, healthy and have the right to work in the UK, so sourcing should always be via a Gangmasters Licencing Abuse Authority, (GLAA) licensed provider.

There are several licensed providers working in the viticultural sector, the largest are ourselves at Vine-Works and Vine Care, both companies have been licensed labour providers since 2009. To achieve licensed status, companies are audited by the GLAA to ensure compliance with a detailed legal criteria.

Vine-Works have always had a positive working relationship with the GLAA and have found them to be friendly, helpful and responsive to enquiries. We’d recommend that anyone with any questions on the compliance of labour providers or concerns about staff welfare to contact the regional GLAA representative.

GLAA Senior Investigating Officer Jennifer Baines said: “We are coming towards a crucial part of the year in the agricultural sector and this means it’s more important than ever for businesses to be vigilant in identifying the signs of labour exploitation. Are workers being paid what they deserve? How long are they working for and are they getting breaks? Are they unfamiliar with their surroundings and acting as if they are controlled by someone else? These are just a few of the many signs to look out for in spotting labour abuse.”

“Working with compliant businesses to drive up industry standards
is critical in helping to protect vulnerable workers and tackling those
who operate outside of our regulations. Since the start of the COVID-19
pandemic, our investigators have been visiting everything from vineyards to packing factories to check on the welfare of workers and ensure that businesses have the support they need during these unprecedented times. These welfare and visibility checks are ongoing across the South of England alongside our day-to-day business of safeguarding vulnerable workers from exploitation.”

“We would encourage anyone who suspects someone is being exploited for their labour to get in touch with our intelligence team, either by calling 0800 4320 804 or emailing intelligence@gla.gov.uk. Your call could help put an end to serious labour abuse and ensure that some of the most vulnerable and hidden members of our society are able to rebuild their lives free from exploitation.”

Alongside the legislative compliance body of the GLAA, companies like ourselves working for best practice in the labour providing sector work with organisations such as Stronger2gether. Stronger2gether is multi-stakeholder body of companies and labour providers that encourage training and awareness of worker exploitation in the supply chain and aims to eradicate associated problems ensuring consumers’ confidence of end products. Look out for the logo to ensure the highest level of practice standards with your labour supplier.

Harvest is clearly the time of highest demand for seasonal workers and a large proportion will come to the UK for this part of the season only. In this time of global pandemic we need to ensure that all staff coming from countries with a high COVID-19 reproduction rate comply with government quarantine regulations. To guarantee this labour providers should ensure that staff are either currently working in the UK, coming from countries with no quarantine restrictions or will have been through the two weeks quarantine period. Vine-Works can guarantee that all of our staff will be
currently residing in the UK or will have been through two weeks isolation.
See WineGB bulletin 4/8/20.

Wishing everyone a bountiful upcoming harvest.

Published in Vineyard Magazine – September 2020

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