DBERR ignores trade unions' calls to extend gangmaster regulation despite Labour commitment to examine the issue

The government has insisted it has no plans to allow the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) to regulate the construction industry despite a Labour Party commitment to examine the issue following the party's National Policy Forum in Warwick last weekend.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) said: “There are no plans at the moment to review the GLA. We don't think extending its remit to the construction industry is the best way forward.

Hutton: "agency workers a very small element"

In March, John Hutton, secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, said there was no need to extend the GLA to construction because “agency workers represent a very small element, some 1.5-3% of the construction workforce”.

However, Bob Blackman, national officer of trade union Unite, said that Hutton was "“misinformed about the number of agency workers in construction, because the number is much higher”.

A Labour Party official said: “These issues are going to be looked at with a view to putting them in the next election manifesto. It's unlikely they'll become legislation in the life of this parliament.”

The GLA regulates workers in the traditionally low-paid sectors of agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering, food processing and packaging.

Trade unions have called for its remit to be extended to the UK construction industry, but lobby group the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) opposes any extension of the GLA's current powers.

Anne Fairweather, head of public policy at the REC, said: “There are issues that need to be addressed, but we don't think the GLA has proved it can drive out rogue traders, and until it does its powers should not be extended to the construction industry.”

She added: “The GLA currently covers the supply of largely unskilled workers into lower-paid jobs in agriculture and food processing. This is a huge contrast to the construction industry where agencies can place professionals for hundreds of pounds a day.”

A sharp fall in individual donations to the Labour Party during the last year has left it largely dependent on trade union cash for financial support.

The National Policy Forum also agreed to examine extending the adult minimum hourly wage of £5.52 to 21-year-olds. At present the minimum wage applies only to workers aged 22 and over. Those aged 18-21 get £4.60 and 16- to 18-year-olds get £3.40.

Commenting on the Warwick forum, Ucuatt general secretary Alan Ritchie said: “Significant progress was made at Warwick. Once the proposals are finalised and enacted, there will be the genuine prospect of creating a robust industry fit for the challenges of the 21st century.”