A COURT has heard a foreign Carlisle car wash employee bought his own protective gloves from Tesco while working long hours for low pay, and had no time to eat during busy shifts.
Three men are on trial at the city’s crown court. They each deny committing “modern slavery” crimes which allegedly involved the “exploitation” of Romanian nationals employed at the Shiny site, Warwick Road, during 2016 and 2017.
Today (MON), one former worker told a jury how he paid 150 euros for transportation from Romania to Carlisle, arriving on a Sunday before starting work at Shiny car wash the next day.
Speaking through an interpreter, he described working 11 hours a day on weekdays, 10 at weekends, and of working up to seven days a week. He was initially paid £30 per day, a daily wage which increased to £45. He said he was told by car wash manager Sitar Ali that a £150 job “guarantee” deposit would be deducted from his wage.
No pay slips were issued until after a visit by police and immigration officials to the site in November, 2016. But the prosecution alleges pay slips “understated” working hours and “overstated” hourly pay rates. Asked about the hours stated on one pay slip he was shown in court, the worker replied: “It reflects them on paper, but the reality was totally different.”
Recalling the car cleaning work, he said “acid” was used “depending on how dirty the wheels were”, and said staff were issued with only “a cap and a T-shirt”, and wore their own clothes.
“Did you use any protective equipment for cleaning the cars?” prosecutor Martin Reid asked.
“Only protection gloves, that was it,” the worker replied. “They were black plastic gloves which I was buying myself from Tesco.”
Asked about breaks, he told jurors: “We were taking our breaks as and when we were able to between washing cars. We were rushing to get a bite of a sandwich. Then we would return to washing cars.”
He added: “During the week it wasn’t that busy but at the weekends we were rushed off our feet and there wasn’t time to eat.”
At that time, the worker paid Ali weekly rent of £40 to live in a house at Compton Street, Carlisle, with up to 11 fellow car wash workers. He described the property as “dirty”, giving a mark of 2.5 out of 10 – 10 being clean – but said he was told directly he would be “evicted” by Ali if he found work elsewhere.
It is alleged Defrim Paci, 40; his 35-year-old brother Jetmir Paci; and Ali, 31, each had a “collective interest and involvement” in the car wash, and were involved in “forced labour”, and “arranging for people to come to the UK with a view to their being exploited”. Ali, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, admits managing the car wash. However, Defrim Paci, of Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, and Jefrim Paci, of Minimum Terrace, Chesterfield, both deny they had any managerial responsibilities.
When asked in court today who was in charge of running the car wash, the worker told jurors “two Albanian brothers” – naming one called “Defrim” as “the big boss” – and a third man, “Sitar”.
The trial continues.