Sunday, 9 August 2015


The raid happened at the East London plant of the UK’s biggest sandwich-maker, Greencore. It supplies Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda.

It was triggered by a tip-off and resulted in 32 workers being arrested. Nine were charged with immigration offences and were remanded in custody, while one was bailed pending further enquiries.

The remaining 22 are being dealt with by immigration officers and will be deported ‘if appropriate’.

Now Greencore – which makes about half of all shop sandwiches sold in Britain – and its recruitment agency could face fines of up to £20,000 per worker if it is found that they failed to check the workers’ documents properly.

And legitimate Greencore employees are worried that their jobs could be in jeopardy if the company is penalised and loses contracts that contribute to its annual profits of £44 million.

One said: ‘When I arrived for my shift at 5.30am there were immigration vans outside and the place was swarming with Home Office officials. No one said what was going on and we were told to go upstairs. There were about 100 of us in the room and workers were phoning colleagues telling them not to come in, in case they got caught too.

‘Since the raid, around half the staff haven’t turned up. Everyone suspects they are scared the officials will return. Normally we have seven sandwich-making lines running but since then we’ve had no more than four.’

Immigration officers led away suspected illegal migrants from Eastern Europe and Africa (not pictured)

Greencore was criticised last year when bosses flew to Hungary to recruit workers for a new factory.

The firm’s human resources director said he had tried to recruit in the UK but that it was ‘not always the kind of work’ that British people wanted to do.

The plant at Bromley-by-Bow has a 750-strong workforce and operates round the clock.

Workers, some earning the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour, do shifts of between eight and 12 hours.

The Home Office recently boosted its enforcement teams and will be increasing its raids on suspect industries. A spokesman said: ‘We are successfully cracking down on those who have no right to be here.

‘We are targeting industries and areas where abuse is most common and we’ve doubled the fines for businesses which flout the rules.’

Greencore, which is based in Ireland, has three UK sandwich factories and produces 430 million of them every year.

A spokesman said: ‘Greencore closely follows the Home Office’s guidelines and goes to great lengths to try to ensure that all of our employees fulfil the necessary criteria to work legally in the UK.

‘There have been numerous occasions in the past on which we have spotted suspicious applications and notified the immigration services immediately.

‘We are determined to keep pace with the increasingly high quality of false documentation that is being produced, and will do everything that we can to ensure that this kind of incident does not recur in the future.’

The company may now face a fine of as much as £20,000 per worker, if they haven't done the proper checks

Spokesmen for Asda and Sainsbury’s said they were aware of the raid on July 29 and were in contact with their suppliers.

A Marks & Spencer spokesman said the store did not source from that factory.

A spokesman for agency Prime Time Recruitment said: ‘Prime Time Recruitment wholly refutes any claims that it has employed illegal workers at the Greencore Bow factory.

Prime Time is strictly and routinely audited to ensure all legal procedures are adhered to.

‘Prime Time supplies 400 workers a week to Greencore Bow and undertakes rigorous checks on all candidates to guarantee their eligibility to work in the UK.’

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