The Lithuanian chicken-catchers were trafficked to work for D J Houghton Chicken Catching Serives which produced eggs for high street brands including McDonalds, Tesco, Asda, M&S and Sainsbury’s. The men aged between 19 and 58 were employed to catch chickens in barns and load them onto trucks to be taken for processing.
Darrell and Jacqueline Houghton, the owners of the company based in Kent, agreed the compensation after a High Court found that they failed to pay the national minimum wage, made unlawful deductions from wages and failed to provide adequate facilities for washing, resting, eating and drinking.
To add to their misery the workers had to work back-to-back eight hour shifts for days at a time and were denied sleep and toilet facilities forcing them to use water bottles and carrier bags in minibuses as they travelled between jobs around the UK.
They were also threatened and assaulted by fellow Lithuanians who worked as supervisors and who intimidated them with fighting dogs.
The Houghtons didn’t admit liability but admitted paying a man to find workers for their business who in turn trafficked them to the UK. The case came to light when some of the workers went to the Citizens Advice Bureau for help.
When Kent Police and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority conducted raids on houses owned by the Houghtons they freed more than 30 men all of whom were believed to be victims of trafficking for labour exploitation.
The legal team which brought the case said “We are extremely pleased to have achieved this result for our clients as it will go a huge way towards helping them rebuild their lives”.
The supermarkets said at the time they were shocked and would ensure their ethical standards were met. Just audit your supply chains better!