A Carlisle car wash worker claimed he had no breaks during busy periods, suffered “cracked hands” from cleaning chemicals and slept on a mattress “full of bugs” in “very dirty” staff accommodation.

At the city’s crown court yesterday, the man became the third employee to give evidence from the witness box in the trial of three men who deny alleged modern slavery crimes. These centre on Shiny hand car wash, Warwick Road, and were allegedly committed during 2016 and 2017.

The man recalled travelling from London and initial employment at a different Carlisle car wash before transferring to Shiny, where his cousin also worked.

Shifts started at 8am and some breaks were given. But the man said: “If it was very busy we couldn’t have breaks for lunch; breaks for cigarettes; we can’t sit at all.”

He was in charge of wiping off cars and operating jet washes.

Asked what else was used to clean vehicles, he replied: “Shampoo, acid and another substance. First of all we were spraying a blue clear substance.” He continued: “Then the acid was sprayed onto the wheels of the cars, it was a very toxic substance.

“When it made contact with the water there was a lot of steam released, and it would make you feel hot. I was coughing an awful lot.”

Asked whether he told boss Sitar Ali, he responded: “Yes. I showed it to him, my very cracked hands because of the shampoo.”

Ali, he told jurors, spoke in an “angry tone” when granting him a day off after four weeks’ work.

And, describing staff accommodation, at Compton Street, as “very dirty”, he recalled having no bed coverings under which to sleep, adding: “Furniture-wise, the bed that I slept in was very old. The mattress was full of bugs.”

Ali, 33, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, and brothers Defrim Paci, 42, of Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield; and 37-year-old Jetmir Paci, of Minimum Terrace, Chesterfield, each deny both 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.

The trial continues.