The Midlander of the Year Awards honour those who have increased the prestige of the region or who have made an outstanding contribution to the social, political, industrial, cultural or sporting life of the area. The Social Entrepreneur Category winner was Zadvinder Padda, for his pioneering work in gang labour’ legislation over the last five years.
Many gangmasters, these days, have an unsavoury reputation, exploiting vulnerable migrant workers and reaping huge rewards from their labour. The cheap prices for fruit and vegetables that we pay in the major supermarkets are mainly due to the fact that workers are hugely underpaid, both living and working in poor facilities with no training or health and safety measures.
Fusion Personnel, a company first established by Zadvinder’s father, now produces over 300 tonnes of soft fruit, mainly strawberries, and employs over 600 workers, most of whom are migrants. All staff are paid on an hourly rate rather than on a piece-work rate, which ensures everyone receives proper wages. Fusion Personnel offers a full training scheme for its workforce based on NVQ qualifications. This training includes basic language skills for those who find themselves in a new and unfamiliar, cultural environment. Here, employee development is at the heart of the business ñ a far cry from the common public perception and reality of the traditional gangmaster system.
Fusion Personnel are the first ethnic minority’ members of the Assured Produce Scheme and in fact, are the only ethnic minority’ farmers in the UK. Although many migrants come from rural backgrounds, like the Punjab, none of them, until now, have taken up farming in the UK. This company demonstrates that with hard work and a spirit of entrepreneurism, migrants to the UK can make a valuable contribution to the food and farming sector, creating secure jobs and a thriving business, while looking after the well-being of the workforce. The awards took place at ITV’s Central Birmingham Studios and a programme celebrating the winners was broadcast on ITV on 15th February 2005.