Biffa & Smart Solutions Face Legal Challenge from Modern Slavery Victims

On 13th January 2021 law firm Leigh Day announced in a press release it had sent a pre-action protocol letter to Biffa, Smart Solutions and FS Commercial on behalf of three modern slavery ring victims.

According to Leigh Day the victims were employed by Biffa through Smart Solutions and FS Commercial in 2015 & 2016 to sort waste. Leigh Day said during this period the workers were under the control of a criminal trafficking gang and didn’t receive any money for their work.

Allegedly, the workers had travelled from Poland to the UK relying on promises of a decent wage & stable work in the West Midlands. However, on arrival into the UK they were sent to overcrowded houses with poor living conditions.

The press release then states bank accounts were opened in their names, but they could not access the bank accounts as the criminal trafficking gang had control of the accounts. They were then registered with the recruitment agency, Smart Solutions, before being sent to work for Biffa. Their wages in relation to the work carried out at Biffa were paid into the bank accounts controlled by the criminal gang.

As a result of a broad investigation by West Midlands Police known as ‘Operation Fort’, it is believed there were over 400 Polish individuals who were victims of the criminal gang.

Leigh Day said there were over 80 complainants in two criminal trials that took place in 2018 and 2019. In relation to the two trials, eight members of the criminal gang were convicted of offences including trafficking, conspiracy to require another to perform forced labour and money laundering and were given custodial sentences between 3 and 11 years. Natalia Zmuda was one of the criminal defendants and worked for Smart Solutions. Her responsibility within the criminal activity was to register victims with Smart Solutions and allocate them work.

The pre-action protocol letter to Biffa, Smart Solutions and FS Commercial claims the companies have a duty to prevent forced labour within their workforce. The letter claims the companies are vicariously liable for offences committed by Natalia Zmuda, which includes harassment and unlawful intimidation.