Damning report highlights worker exploitation among other industry ills

despite recent high profile court cases. Major contractors in construction typically have long and fragmented supply chains, with little visibility beyond tiers one or two. They are also heavily reliant on temporary migrant labour, a significant indicator of risk. Nevertheless, the report found examples of complacency and disbe- lief that major projects were vulnerable to criminal infiltration and human trafficking. This is contrasted with incidents of modern slavery being found on major UK infrastructure programmes, PFI hospital projects, power plants, recycling centres, renovation projects, demolition sites and local authority schemes, said CIOB. The report also highlights:

• How industry is conflating immigration checks with modern slavery checks. This is ineffective because many people trapped in modern slavery have a legiti- mate right to work in the UK

• Severe weaknesses in commercial audit- ing models, with auditors disincentivised to report problems to the police

‘Construction and the Modern Slavery Act, tackling exploitation in the UK’ is a new report published by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) that says both British and foreign workers are at risk of exploita- tion in the industry.

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) have jointly led a national enforcement campaign involving police forces and other agencies aimed at tackling labour exploitation. NCA analysis has identified construction as one of the most common sectors for labour exploitation in the UK.

Criticising the industry’s slow response to the Modern Slavery Act, CIOB’s report highlights the aggressive business models that are “creating an environment for unethical procurement and recruitment practices, and the systemic auditing failures that are allowing criminals to infiltrate major projects undetected”. According to the CIOB, problems start at the top of supply chains, with lowest cost tendering, abuse of the retentions system and late payment “pricing out ethical practice”. The report indicates that the situation is creating an imbalance of power that leaves all nationalities vulnerable to exploitation. Illegal activities such as black- listing are also believed to be continuing,


• Poor transparency in supply chain report- ing standards, with many eligible companies failing to produce a modern slavery report in the first annual reporting cycle. A significant number of published statements do not follow minimum legal requirements, including being visible on the company homepage and being signed off by a board director

• A tendency for companies to water down their modern slavery statements to remove mention of risk, against the spirit of the Modern Slavery Act

• Examples of ‘sharp practice’, with major players defaulting to legal compliance exercises that push responsibility onto their less well-resourced suppliers. This is also “against the spirit of the legislation”.

The report explores the legal, investor and social pressures for driving change. It also highlights examples of industry best practice as well as platforms for information sharing, such as the GLAA’s construction forum. Strategies for rehabilitating survivors of slavery are included through the Co-op Group’s Bright Future programme. CIOB is calling for “a new industry narrative”: asking contractors to acknowl- edge that every supply chain is at risk and collaborate more widely to combat crime. It is launching a Routemap to Fair Business

which sets out steps for raising standards for all workers and suppliers, encouraging a more proactive approach to tackling systemic issues.

Survey finds modular not a popular choice

52 per cent of individuals would be unlikely to live in a modular home, according to Home Group, yet almost 90 per cent failed to identify a modern modular product. The research, carried out on behalf of Home Group by YouGov, found that more than half of those surveyed “would not choose modular,” and 41 per cent “believe that modular homes are less durable than conventionally built homes”. However, using a selection of images from which respondents could identify modular homes, the reported revealed that many identified the two images of ‘container homes’ as modular (75 and 78 per cent respectively), whereas only 11 per cent identified a modern product as a modular home. Brian Ham, executive director – develop- ment at Home Group, said: “We’ve always known that there may be issues with perceptions of modular homes, but it’s reassuring to see that these are not based upon today’s products.

“If we are to respond to the ongoing housing crisis we need to find new and innovative ways of tackling the issue, and modular homes, as well as wider modern methods of construction, including volumetric products, will allow us to deliver homes more efficiently.” In order to achieve this, Home Group is launching a research project in collaboration with ENGIE to test a wide range of modern construction products and smart technology on one site.

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