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Bishop backs trade union bid to deal with illegal gangmasters

 Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue spoke yesterday at a press conference, organised by Labour MP Jim Sheridan and one of the UK's biggest trade unions the T&G, in support of a Private Member's Bill to regulate and licence labour providers or gangmasters. The Private Member's Bill was introduced into the Commons on January 7 and it is expected to receive its Second Reading on February 27. The recent deaths of 20 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay has exposed the fact that inadequate legislation and weak voluntary codes are insufficient to clamp down on unscrupulous gangmasters who subject workers to long working hours, low pay, poor conditions of work and even intimidation. While there are no official figures for the numbers of gangmasters operating in the UK, the T&G estimates there could be as many as 3,000, employing about 60,000 workers, many of whom are migrants. Speaking after the press conference, Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster, said: "The recent tragic deaths of 20 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay brought to light the exploitative nature of many illegal gangmasters operating in the UK. "The investigation into their deaths is ongoing, but whatever its conclusions, it is incumbent on us to ensure that those who lost their lives should be commemorated appropriately. "First and foremost this means ensuring an effective regime to drive out illegal gangmasters. I urge MPs to attend the Second Reading of the Bill and to support it from there on.