New act shines light on labour abuse

Modern Day Slavery The scourge of Modern Day Slavery is highlighted in the CIOB's recent report, Modern Slavery: The dark side of construction.

The report, published at this year’s Members’ Forum, examines the prevalence of human rights abuses in construction, both in the UK and overseas. 

In the report’s foreword, CIOB chief executive Chris Blythe describes “bonded labour, delayed wages, abysmal working and living conditions, withholding of passports and limitations of movement”.

The CIOB now plans to produce a ‘toolkit’ of guidance for the industry on how to identify and eliminate abuses of labour along its supply chains.

Shortly after publication of the CIOB report, the government clarified that all UK companies with a turnover above £36m would be required to complete an annual statement on slavery and trafficking, under the Act’s TISC clause.

All construction companies over the threshold will be obliged to outline the steps taken by the business to ensure that no slavery or trafficking is occurring in its supply chain and within its operations.

However, if no such steps have been taken, it’s understood that a statement to that effect will suffice for the purposes of complying with the law.

Ian Nicholson, managing director of corporate responsibility consultancy Responsible Solutions, believes most large construction businesses will go beyond this minimum requirement, although smaller operations might struggle to do so.

"Assuming that most people take the spirit of what this is about, this could have a huge impact."

Ian Nicholson, Responsible Solutions

But he said: “Assuming that people don’t take that route, and take the spirit of what this is actually about, this could potentially have a big impact.”

The clause encompasses site labour working anywhere in a contractor’s supply chain, as well as workers producing construction products and components.

Nicholson said: “For many businesses, there is a massive amount of work to do – if you ask them where a component comes from, they can tell you the name of the UK distributor but not much else. And with site labour, what we’ve seen is that contractors don’t go beyond the people they’re paying directly.”

Nicholson said he was aware of one UK contractor operating overseas that had already performed an audit of its all its operations, on both labour and products. 

But he stressed that forced labour and human rights abuses aren’t only a feature of life beyond the UK: “We mustn’t forget that the UK industry is not necessarily squeaky clean on labour issues.” 

A spokesman for the Supply Chain Sustainability School added that members had already raised the Modern Slavery Act as a topic to be addressed. “It’s clearly a topic that the partners feel warrants attention and response,” he said.

Click here to read our blog about Modern Day Slavery.

Click here to download the report.

Source: Construction Manager

Post date: 02 Sep 2015

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