Now the council has confirmed it is working closely with the government agency which is able to enforce minimum wage rules - something the local authority cannot do itself.
Details of the circumstances endured by some workers emerged after council staff in neighbouring Wakefield discovered three men living in ‘appalling conditions’ in that city, while being transported daily to work in Barnsley for £3.85 an hour in a car wash.
While the workers themselves were not trafficked, the pay rates were below the £4.35 minimum which has to be paid by law to under 18s and less than half the £8.21 over 25s should be able to expect as their minimum hourly rate.
Barnsley Council’s executive director for communities, Wendy Lowder, said: “We work closely with our colleagues in the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), who have the authority to enforce minimum wage standards as we cannot do this as a local authority.
“We would always alert our colleagues in GLAA to any instances such as these and have conducted successful joint interventions in Barnsley involving car washes in the past couple of years.
“We are part of the sub-regional modern slavery partnership and are working with colleagues from within the council and partner organisations to ensure that there is a clear awareness of roles and responsibilities to properly address issues of this type of exploitation.”
Last November, a committee of MPs chaired by Wakefield’s Mary Creagh recommended that hand car washes be licensed in a bid to “prevent modern slavery in plain sight.”
More than a quarter of cases filed by the Modern Slavery helpline concern car wash workers, but the BBC reported that there were only 14 minimum wage prosecutions in the sector between 1999 and 2018.
Provided by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.