Carlisle Crown Court has heard that one worker at the Shiny car wash on Warwick Road told police: "They treated me the same like they would do with a slave."
Opening the case, prosecutor Martin Reid told jurors: "It is the prosecution case that the circumstances created by the defendants led to the freedom of the people that you are going to hear from effectively being overridden, and that they were compelled to work long hours, in bad conditions, for little pay."
The court heard staff weren't provided with clothing to protect them from car wash cleaning chemicals, were housed in a "dirty" rat- and insect-infested multi-occupancy rented property in central Carlisle and prevented from leaving after identity cards were taken away.
Defrim Paci, of Windmill Close, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, Jetmir Paci, of Walton Walk, Boythorpe, Derbyshire, and Sitar Ali, of Adelaide Street, Carlisle, all deny charges alleging that they brought Romanian nationals to the UK to exploit them.
The trial continues.