Former car wash employee was 'burned' and treated 'like a slave', jury hears

A former Carlisle car wash employee was left "burned" and scarred by his work, refused lunch breaks and treated "like a slave", a jury has heard.

Three men - Defrim Paci, 40; his 35-year-old brother Jetmir Paci; and Sitar Ali, 31 - are on trial at the city's crown court. They deny alleged "modern slavery" offending and "exploitation" of Romanian men employed at the Shiny cleaning site, Warwick Road, during 2016 and 2017.Jurors heard the evidence from an ex-staff member who recalled finding "horrible" Carlisle accommodation before starting his first shift.

He spoke of working 11 hours "without a break" that day, when "more than 2,000 cars" were counted. "It was like for slaves," the man said in a police interview about the duties.

"I was told there is no lunch break. I tried to discuss with (site manager) Sitar and I told him that never, ever in my life, I have never worked without a lunch break. And he said 'no, no lunch break, no lunch break because you have to work'."

From left: Sitar Ali, Defrim Paci and Jetmir Paci. Credit: Court reporter

If staff spoke they would be shouted at and made to feel "humiliated, said the man, who believed two bearded men he saw at the site were "big bosses".

From his first £220 pay packet" the man was left with just £20 after deductions for travel expenses and rent. The man recalled working nine days in a row, and being left tired, with sore legs and multiple burns and scars from the work.

"And that was caused by the stuff you used to clean the cars?" a police officer asked.

"Chemicals, yes," the man replied.

"Were you ever given any equipment, gloves, safety equipment to stop you getting burned?" asked the officer. "No. Nothing. Absolutely nothing," replied the worker, who described buying £2 gloves from Tesco and, ultimately, feeling misled about the work, pay and conditions.

Asked to describe the "reality" of working at Shiny having travelled from Romania, the man said: "Not even for my worst enemies."

Summing up his time there, he added: "I was treated very bad: at home, at work, no lunch breaks, no nothing, to be honest. Like a slave."

Ali, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle; Defrim Paci, of Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield; and Jetmir Paci, of Minimum Terrace, Chesterfield; all deny wrongdoing, and the trial continues.