An employee of a Carlisle car wash at the centre of alleged modern slavery crimes has told a jury of working long hours for little pay – and having to buy gloves from Tesco to protect his hands from cleaning chemicals.

Giving evidence at the city’s crown court today, the man recalled paying a company 150 euros to transport him by coach from his native Romania to Carlisle in 2016.

After a two-day journey he arrived on a Sunday, was housed in multi-occupancy accommodation at Compton Street, and began work at Shiny on Warwick Road the next day.

Twelve people shared six Compton Street bedrooms and all had to use a single bathroom, with a second out of action.

“From my point of view,” he said when asked to describe the property’s condition, “it could not have been rented.”

He added: “In many rooms, the walls were cracked and in the kitchen the lino was rising so you had to walk carefully to avoid tripping on it.”

Now aged 37, the man spoke of working up to seven days a week at Shiny, starting at 8am and finishing at 7pm on all days except Sunday.

There was time off for lunch and also breaks when the car wash was not busy, but the man recalled: "There were also times when I took a lunch break at five in the afternoon.”

His initial duties involved using chemicals to clean car wheels but he wore his own clothes and was “only given a hoody”.

Asked whether hand protection was provided, he replied: “No. To protect the hands you needed gloves which each of us bought at Tesco.

"They were long gloves made of a black-coloured rubber material.”

A £150 “safety deposit” was usually deducted from wages, as was rent, and he also paid for electricity at the house.

He was initially paid £30 a day, an amount which eventually rose to £45, although he said pay slips which he only began receiving after an immigration visit to the premises understated his hours and listed a £7.20 hourly rate.

The man described Sitar Ali as the car wash “boss”. When asked whether anyone else was involved in the running of the business, he spoke of “two brothers, both Albanian origin” – later identified as Defrim Paci and Jetmir Paci.

He saw the siblings washing cars at the site, and described seeing Defrim also speaking with Ali, either in an office or in spaces reserved for customers.

Jetmir, meanwhile, was also seen welding and joking with those who spoke English. He recalled telling Jetmir, when asked how he was feeling, that he was “ok”.

On other occasions, however, he felt less good. “Because I was thinking I was working 11 hours per day and I wasn’t getting paid what a person working 11 hours a day should be paid,” he explained, adding that a lack of English language skills prevented him from finding another job.

The man agreed £800 cash had been seized by police.

“That was the money that I was receiving from the car wash and the money that I was able to save up with great difficulties and with sacrifices,” said the man, adding: “Very hard. I managed.”

During cross-examination, the man agreed his younger brother still worked at the Carlisle car wash.

A list of questions asked by police – who spoke with the man on May 10 – were also put to him.

He agreed answering that his weekly rent was £30 and that his wages were £50 per day, although he insisted this was a planned sum which had not materialised.

When asked how he viewed his treatment by car wash management, he had stated: “Feel treated as employee should.”

Defrim Paci, aged 42, of Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield; 37-year-old Jetmir Paci, of Minimum Terrace, Chesterfield, and Ali, aged 33, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, are on trial and each deny two charges: conspiracy to require others to perform forced or compulsory labour at Shiny in Carlisle; and conspiracy to facilitate travel with a view to exploitation. Ali further denies possessing criminal cash after more than £16,000 was found in a car.

The trial continues.