A Preston gangmaster firm, which supplied workers to the pet food industry, has had its licence revoked after being investigated for illegal activity.

Voluntary People Limited, which is based in Pittman Way, Fulwood, had its licence revoked by the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA) and they must now stop supplying workers to the GLA regulated sector or face prosecution.

There was no appeal made against the GLA decision by the firm.

Both men and women were working on the pet food production line at Golden Acres Petfood Partners, which has its head office in Bretherton, Chorley, and records kept by the gangmaster showed that no checks to confirm their right to work in the UK had been made. Records suggested the workers were from Brazil, Bulgaria, Portugal, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The GLA stresses that Golden Acres Petfood Partners has done no wrong.

Allegations stemming from the investigation include:

• Voluntary People Limited had subcontracted workers from an unlicensed gangmaster in Poland

• At least two workers supplied by Voluntary People were not legally entitled to work in the UK

• Workers were charged for Personal Protective Equipment used to carry out their job

• There was no evidence that workers had agreed to deductions from their pay for Personal Protective Equipment and clock cards.

Paul Whitehouse, chairman of the GLA, said: “We are determined to catch the rogue gangmasters, this time it is not the food on your plate but the food in the bowl of your pet that has been processed by an exploited worker.

“We shall continue to protect the rights of workers and ensure that all gangmaster businesses meet basic legal requirements.

"You can not hide from us, you can not avoid us. We are determined to route out the rogues.”

More than 1,200 gangmasters are now licensed to operate legally in the UK and the GLA has uncovered worker exploitation and illegal activity that led to the revocation of 78 licences.

The GLA, which aims to curb the exploitation of workers in the agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and associated processing and packaging industries, was set up following the death of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morcambe Bay in 2004.