EMPLOYEES at a Carlisle car wash had to work up to 12 hours a day with no breaks and no protective clothing, a jury heard.

Bosses at the city’s Shiny Car Wash in Warwick Road also confiscated workers’ identity cards and kept them until they repaid the £130 cost of bringing them to the UK from Romania.

Those were just some of the allegations heard at the city’s crown court as three men went on trial accused of “modern day” slavery offences.

Jetmir Paci, 35, his brother Defrim Paci, 40, and Sitar Ali , 31, are charged with conspiring to require persons to perform forced, or compulsory labour.

They are also accused of conspiring to arrange the travel of others for the purposes of exploitation. Sitar Ali faces an additional charge of possessing criminal property - £16,000 generated by offending. The three defendants deny all the charges they face.

Prosecutor Martin Reid said all three defendants were collectively involved in the business.

He told the jury: “It’s the prosecution case that circumstances created by the defendants led to the freedom of people you will hear from effectively being overridden. They were compelled to work long hours, in bad conditions, for little pay.”

The barrister outlined some of the accounts given by Shiny Car Wash employees to the police.

The workers typically paid £130 for their journey from Romania, with the money being repaid to their new employer through deductions from wages. When they arrived in Carlisle, said Mr Reid, workers were asked to pay a £100 to £150 deposit, again taken from their wages.

They were warned they would lose that cash if they left without giving notice, said Mr Reid.

“Identity cards were taken and held till their debt was repaid, and this prevented them from leaving,” said the barrister.Workers were also required to live in a Carlisle property with as many as 11 other workers, and for this £30 was taken from their weekly wage.

A further £10 was taken for electricity, the court heard.

Mr Reid outlined conditions at the car wash, where staff were paid in cash.

Working 11 or 12 hours a day, and for six or seven days a week, staff were not given with protective clothing, he said. Some said the chemicals they used damaged their skin.

Summarising one worker’s statement, Mr Reid said: “He didn’t get any breaks unless there were no cars to wash.” Another worker said on quiet days, staff washed 100 cars but on busy days it was between 300 and 400 cars.

After deductions, one was left with just £10 from his first week’s wage, said Mr Reid.

The barrister described one worker’s comments about the Spencer Street accommodation in Carlisle allegedly shared with 12 fellow Shiny Car Wash staff. “He was told that if he moved house, he would not be working for Shiny Car Wash any more,” said Mr Reid.

“There was a turnover of 30 people in Spencer Street in the year when he lived there.” The property was cold and had an insect and rat infestation. It was also “very dirty,” said the man. He said he and his colleagues were treated as if they were slaves.

“It is the prosecution case,” said Mr Reid, “that the defendants agreed to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour on their behalf at the Shiny Car Wash here in Carlisle.”

It is not prosecution case that the workers were smuggled to the UK. The barrister added: “The criminality arises because it was the intention of the people brining them that they would be exploited.” Another worker said he stayed at the car wash because he could not afford to leave.

The trial continues.