The GLA, which in this case was supported by Sainsbury's and Peterborough-based fresh produce supplier Produce World, revoked the licence of ELS Recruitment of Peterborough with immediate effect after uncovering what it described as "shocking abuse" in April this year.
In dismissing the appeal, the judgement - published on 26 June - stated: "(There) was clear evidence of a systematic and cynical series of breaches that inevitably led to the finding that there has been a total disregard for the standards required of all licensed labour providers, and ELS cannot be regarded as 'fit and proper' to hold a GLA licence."
GLA chairman Paul Whitehouse said of the judgement: "ELS Recruitment controlled where the workers lived, if they worked, how they got to work and even if they got paid for working. Anybody who abuses this amount of control over the lives of others deserves to face the consequences.
"The GLA is very happy that this appeal has been dismissed and (ELS) owner Shamus Paul has been told in no uncertain terms that this approach to business is totally abhorrent and cannot be allowed."
A GLA-led inspection into ELS in April uncovered the following information:
- - workers had been threatened and verbally abused by Paul and other ELS staff;
- - on a regular basis, hours were deducted from workers' pay with no explanation - and the workers were told that, if they complained, they would be fired;
- - workers reported being frightened when travelling to and from work because the vans they were put in were often overcrowded, leaving some workers on the floor while travelling at high speeds;
- - workers were forced to use company transport and paid at least £4.50 each per day for doing so - those who did not use this transport were threatened with the sack, and one worker stated they had to pay for transport even if they were not working;
- - workers were told that they would not be paid if they took holiday, and there was no evidence that statutory sick pay had ever been paid;
- - some workers were not given copies of their contracts, while other workers' contracts contained false details and the signatures of the workers appeared to have been forged by the agency - at least one worker was fired for questioning these details;
- - although ELS was responsible for providing the workers with health and safety training, none was provided - one worker stated that the only training provided was "don't lose your knife";
- - some workers who questioned these practices or complained were fired from their jobs.