Pro-Force ended contracts with overseas agents ‘over a month ago’

Agricultural recruiter Pro-Force Recruitment ended its contracts with overseas agents in Bulgaria and Romania over a month ago and is taking its recruitment abroad back in-house “to eliminate potential risk to our workers”, the firm revealed today.

Wed, 21 Oct 2015

Agricultural recruiter Pro-Force Recruitment ended its contracts with overseas agents in Bulgaria and Romania over a month ago and is taking its recruitment abroad back in-house “to eliminate potential risk to our workers”, the firm revealed today. 

In a prepared statement, Pro-Force managing director Matthew Jarrett said that an internal investigation into the practices of their overseas agents, following a recent inspection by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), raised concerns about “the choices made available to the workers”. Pro-Force said it had used the overseas agents since 2014.

“As a result, we made the decision to terminate our contracts with those agents over a month ago, and take the whole recruitment process back in-house to eliminate any potential risk to our workers,” Jarrett said. 

A Channel 4 investigation into labour abuses that aired earlier this week alleged that the Kent recruiter provided accommodation for apple packers, largely from Romania, that was “not fit for humans” at Nickle Farm near Canterbury, verbally abused packhouse staff and threatened them with being left off shift. It also alleged workers became ill after breathing fumes from a broken air conditioner unit, and were not allowed to leave until the end of their shift.

The company has disputed the allegations and contends that Channel 4 used “a compilation of misrepresentative or incorrect images” in telling its story.

A Pro-Force spokesman told Recruiter that the company is looking to “go international” and set up offices in Bulgaria and Romania to handle its recruitment there. It will be “a huge investment”, he acknowledged, but said having its own operations in those countries would give them “much more control” over how workers are recruited and communicated with. The company hopes to have its overseas operations in place by the beginning of 2016 in preparation for the biggest agricultural season of the year, the spokesman said.

“Regarding any disparity alleged between what workers are promised and what they experience, we have taken recent steps to address this,” Jarrett said in the statement. 

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has launched its own investigation into Pro-Force over the allegations of poor worker treatment. 

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