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Agreement boosts cross border protection for workers in Ireland

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Press release

11 March 2016

Agreement boosts cross border protection for workers in Ireland

Exploited workers look set to benefit from additional protection in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic after the GLA signed a formal agreement with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC)

Chief Executive Paul Broadbent and WRC Chief Labour Inspector Padraig Dooley put pen to paper on a Memorandum of Understanding at the GLA’s National Conference in Derby this week to formalise and facilitate closer working between the two organisations.

The GLA’s remit is to prevent worker exploitation in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, while the WRC performs a similar role in Ireland.

Gangmasters WRC 2  Mr Broadbent (pictured left) said: "In the past we have come across a number of issues involving agencies supplying workers across the border – and so into a jurisdiction where our relevant organisations have no powers to act."

"The document we have signed not only establishes a formal intelligence gateway through which we can share information more readily but also allows officers from both organisations to work together more closely and attend operations together when there are cross border implications."

The agreement also includes a provision for officers to be seconded to the partner agency so they can become familiar with each others’ powers and working practices.

Mr Dooley (right) added: "This new agreement represents a significant step forward and I’m sure will prove mutually beneficial to both ourselves and the GLA but, more importantly, to the workers we strive to protect."

"We intend to make use of the new arrangements at the earliest available opportunity and look forward to sharing best practice between our two teams."

The Northern Ireland Minister of Justice, David Ford, welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding. He said: "This agreement is a positive step forward in tackling forced labour on the island of Ireland."

"By working together, and sharing information and expertise, these agencies are better equipped to disrupt criminals who seek to exploit vulnerable workers."


Press release jointly issued by GLA Communications and Information Officer Paul Fearn (UK) and by WRC Inspection & Enforcement Division (Ireland)

For more information from the GLA contact +44 (0)115 959 7069 or email

For more information from the WRC contact Justin Bowers +353 (0)87 279 0477 or email

Notes to editors

  1. The GLA operates throughout the UK and is a Non-Departmental Public Body.
  2. It was formed in 2005 in the wake of the Morecambe Bay cockle picking disaster when 23 Chinese workers drowned on the sands.
  3. The GLA licences companies that supply labour (gangmasters) for agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering as well as all associated processing and packaging.
  4. Its main strategic priorities are to prevent worker exploitation, protect vulnerable people and tackle unlicensed and criminal activity.
  5. Under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act (2004), it is illegal both to operate as, or enter into an agreement with, an unlicensed gangmaster.
  6. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is an independent, statutory body which was established on 1st October 2015 under the Workplace Relations Act 2015.
  7. It assumes the roles and functions previously carried out by the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), Equality Tribunal (ET), Labour Relations Commission (LRC), Rights Commissioners Service (RCS), and the first-instance (Complaints and Referrals) functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).
  8. Labour inspectors at the WRC Inspection and Enforcement division seek to enforce compliance with minimum employment law standards, including the National Minimum Wage, across employments in all sectors in Ireland.