Construction sector must take more responsibility to tackle modern slavery, warns report

The Chartered Institute of Building has released a new report recommending ways the construction sector could tackle modern slavery. 

Ministers are hoping the report will help to drive up standards. Credit: PA 

The report, Building a fairer system: tackling modern slavery in construction supply chains by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), examines the root causes of slavery, and sets out priority actions for moving the industry towards greater transparency.

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The International Labour Organisation estimates that there are 21 million people in forced labour around the world, generating profits in the private economy of $150 billion. Interpol estimates that only five to ten per cent of cases are ever reported.

The report urged the sector to deal with “fragmented supply chains, opaque procurement processes and high demand for migrant labour”.

“Building a fairer system examines how workers from developing countries become tricked or coerced into paying illegal and extortionate recruitment fees, and, once in debt, become vulnerable to exploitation in their place of work,” the report said.

“Abuses range from forced or bonded labour, late payment, unsanitary living conditions, unfair deductions from wages, withheld passports and loss of freedom of movement, lack of representation, violence, intimidation and physical abuse.”

The report also examined how faults in the procurement process allowed exploitative practices to remain hidden in building materials supply chains.

Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime Karen Bradley praised the CIOB for the report, saying it would help to “drive up standards.”

She said: “Modern slavery affects people from all over the world and this Government is committed to stamping out this abhorrent crime, building on the UK’s strong track record in supporting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.

“The Modern Slavery Act 2015 introduced a world leading transparency in supply chains provision which requires all large businesses operating in the UK to set out what they have done to prevent modern slavery in their business and supply chains.

“This legislation was introduced to shine a spotlight on this issue, ensure that businesses can be properly held to account and drive a race to the top. We are pleased to see the Chartered Institute of Building taking steps to do exactly that and drive up standards in the construction industry.”

Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland OBE said: “With the culture of transparency becoming the norm in the era of globalised communication, having and showcasing sustainable and ethical practices is the only way forward and indeed an excellent market opportunity.

“Companies who opt for a model of secrecy will find they are no longer viable.

“Instead, those who lead the way with transparent, ethical and slavery-free supply chains will become the companies of choice and the new market leaders.”

CIOB Chief Executive Chris Blythe said: “Ethical procurement processes should be embedded into the heart of operations. Organisations need to become proactive, holding subcontractors and suppliers to account through more stringent clauses and penalties. And the eradication of illegal recruitment fees must be our priority.

“Our journey towards the eradication of slavery will take decades and demands collective action, as is reflected by the multiple contributors to this report. Professional and private organisations need to come together to solve these complex problems and to make a lasting difference.”


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