Slavery and trafficking order secured against Palm Bay Car Wash owner

The Palm Bay Car Wash on Northdown Road in Cliftonville, must follow all the restrictions within the slavery order in place until October.

Investigators from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) have secured a slavery order against the owner of a Thanet hand car wash.

Margate Magistrates’ Court approved the GLAA’s application for an interim Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order (STRO) against Genc Gjocaj at a hearing yesterday (July 27).

Gjocaj, who owns The Palm Bay Car Wash on Northdown Road in Cliftonville, must follow all the restrictions within the STRO in place until October.

The car wash had been visited by the GLAA and Kent Police earlier this year with concerns identified around the absence of protective equipment, contracts and payslips for the workers.

There was also no evidence of any record keeping by Gjocaj in relation to tax and National Insurance, and the hours worked by his employees.

The 50-year-old, of Elmwood Court, Battersea Park Road, London, has been ordered not to recruit people with no legal status in the UK.

He must not employ anyone who does not have a valid National Insurance number.

The order also compels him to keep full written records of all employees and their employment. These must be provided to officers upon request.

Gjocaj must pay his workers the National Minimum Wage and provide wage slips and contracts to them in their own language.

He must allow officers entry during business hours to inspect conditions and speak to the workers, and to inform the GLAA in writing of any changes in ownership of this car wash or any other owned or controlled by him

The final restrictions placed on Gjocaj force him to register with Companies House and pay business rates to the local authority. This means he must pay tax and National Insurance and record the hours worked by his employees accurately.

The Palm Bay Car Wash is not associated with Palm Bay MOT Service Centre which is an entirely separate business.

GLAA Senior Investigating Officer Jen Baines has been with the Gangmasters Licence and Abuse Authority (GLAA) since it was established in 2005 and looks after a  swathe of the UK coastline covering Portsmouth to Suffolk.

Ms Baines knows the isle coastline intimately after growing up in east Kent.

She said: “There are around 5,000 hand car washes in the UK and while we understand that many operate legally, unfortunately there still remain issues with others.

“The problems at hand car washes can be wide-ranging. In addition to vulnerable workers being exploited for their labour, we often see failings around payment of the National Minimum Wage, environmental breaches, and health and safety legislation being disregarded.

“This is the first STRO we have secured in Kent and we will not hesitate to take action with our partners if we find that any of the restrictions are being breached.”

The GLAA’s application was supported by Kent Police.

PC Glenn Castle of Kent Police’s Community Policing Team in Thanet said: “Victims of modern slavery are often hidden in plain sight. They may not realise they are being exploited, and very often they will not know the working conditions they are entitled to or where to seek help if things are not right.

“As part of the work of Thanet’s Community Policing Team and the Thanet Multi- Agency Task Force, we aim to safeguard vulnerable people who might be at risk of forced labour by criminals and we will regularly pay visits to businesses in the district to review practices and offer support to staff. We check they are being paid properly, that working conditions are safe as well as other factors, such as employers adhering to correct and legal practices.

“Through joint working with GLAA, we will continue to make sure people are safe at work.”

Find out more about how to spot the signs of labour exploitation at hand car washes by listening to this GLAA podcast produced with the Responsible Car Wash Scheme.

If you have concerns that a car wash near you is exploiting its workers, contact the GLAA’s intelligence team on 0800 4320804 or email intelligence@gla.gov.uk.

You can also download the Safe Car Wash app developed by the Clewer Initiative and report your concerns there.

Alternatively, call the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline on 08000 121 700 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

The work taking place to tackle modern slavery reports in Thanet

18 Comments

  1. The place should be closed down ,and the owner jailed and if not a British citizen should be deported,and any money he has in UK banks should be confiscated and given to the exploited workforce

    • Interesting this man resides on a relatively small estate in Battersea Park, which was constructed in 1984. Approximately 43 flats are used for sheltered housing, while the remainder are let at social rent levels. There are 22 new dwellings in Blocks A & B. These are split into 12 rented dwellings & 10 shared ownership, on 1st-4th floors, the ground floors being for retail use.

      • Most likely he’s just a front man for an organised crime gang. He collects the money , passes it on and there is no way of finding out anything higher than him.
        Car washes are often used as a first employment for migrants desperate to be earning something from day of arrival, they then move on as soon as they find something better.
        Hand car washes are well known as of being dubious in the employment and accounting practices. How many of those in thanet are vat registered? But it’s hard to believe that any of them turnover less than the registration limit given the numbers they employmand hours they are open. Also how many have planning permission and the relevant environmental measures in place?

  2. i totally agree with ray the bread , sadly i doubt if anything will be done, just the usual hot air from the government and thier cronies

  3. As in the past for drug trafficking. The police give sufficient rope watching and gathering evidence for the organiser to wring their own neck. Unfortunately this takes time and subsequently too much damage is caused to an area and its residents and the trafficked persons life.

    Regretfully the falling police numbers just create more pressures on an already stretched service.

  4. I am also with Ray The Bread.Throw the book at him and,in the wise words of DS Hastings”and the bookcase,as well”.
    If he is running a tax and insurance dodging business,it should be closed down.

  5. Good to see government agencies cracking down. But we have had years of “cutting red tape and regulations”. Years of ” set businesses free from state interference”. The hopefuls in the Tory leadership race are STILL spouting the same old claptrap about “setting us free” by NOT enforcing proper standards, weakening protective legislation, cutting back the workforce employed to carry out the legislation and forcing them to just do the easy jobs ie. getting the smaller businesses.
    One of the leadership candidates was even banging on about a “bonfire” of EU legislation , without spelling out which regulations were so terrible.
    Yes, they should have been a lot tougher with this individual but there is such a climate of “free enterprise” that businessmen get away with murder and then just get fined for inadequate health and safety standards. Then some bright spark even complains that there is “too much of all this Health and Safety!”
    Well, there isn’t enough regulation to protect us. Not enough state employees to enforce the laws that protect us. And too lax attitudes to employers who, it seems , have to be mollycoddled or else they will emigrate ,or something that is supposed to worry us.

    • Paul link,
      I don’t think you even need to ask the question because you know, I know, and everybody else knows the correct answer.
      No Brits or legal migrants will work for slave wages or slave hours.

  6. So the owner ‘must’ do this, do that … from hereon?! With a b****y slavery and trafficking order secured against him? Why isn’t he being prosecuted? I thought modern slavery was taken very seriously, obviously not.

  7. Palm Bay Car Wash…..Palm Bay! How dare he call it Palm Bay….its Cliftonville NOT Palm Bay. We don’t have that sort of goings on in Palm Bay.

  8. Hand car washes, nail bars and barbers which are marketed as belonging to a particular country straddling Europe and Asia. Raid them all.

    There’s a reason why they are seemingly booming when the rest of the High Street is dying on its backside.

  9. They need to look at the Tesco one too…

    The workers live in a house on my street, a small 3bed mid terrace and there is close to 20people living in there!

    If someone can point me in the right direction to raise concerns then I will.

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