Government’s Vulnerable Workers Report Fails To Protect Exploited Construction Workers

Construction union UCATT are disappointed that the final report of the Vulnerable Worker’s Enforcement Forum has failed to back measures, which would ensure that tens of thousands of construction workers are not exploited on a daily basis.

UCATT acknowledge that proposals for closer working between different enforcement bodies and a single telephone number for reporting abuses will be a step forward when abuses occur.

However, UCATT has consistently supported the extension of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to cover the construction industry. Licensing is a proactive policy which prevents abuses taking place as registered gangmasters/employment agencies have to meet minimum standards on pay, conditions, working hours, deductions and health and safety, before they are allowed to supply labour. If abuses then occur a gangmaster can be rapidly stripped of their licence.

A proactive licensing regime is especially important in construction where workers do not work on fixed sites and workers can be swiftly moved between different locations.

The existing methods of dealing with abuses are reactive, slow, under resourced and understaffed. In particular UCATT do not believe that the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EASI) is at all equipped to deal with abuses in the construction industry.

Jim Kennedy UCATT’s National Political Officer and a member of the Vulnerable Workers Enforcement Forum said: “I am at a loss to understand the opposition to the licensing of gangmasters in the construction industry; we have produced a wealth of data that highlighted the endemic abuse of vulnerable workers by gangmasters in our industrial sector. UCATT is the only organisation to have produced such data with the employer’s representatives (CBI and Construction Confederation) unable to counter this hard evidence.”

In September 2007, UCATT supplied a detailed dossier of abuses taking place on construction sites to EASI, some of these cases were occurring on the Kingsmill PFI Hospital site in Mansfield. The cases included abuses being performed by one specific gangmaster. In July 2008 UCATT revealed that some workers on the Kingsmill site were taking home as little as £8.80 per week. UCATT reported the company directly to EASI but did not receive an acknowledgement of their concerns.

Mr Kennedy, added: “To imply that EASI are capable of policing this sector is not a real life proposal and quite frankly lacks credibility. I hope the reluctance to extend gangmasters legislation will not come back to haunt the authors of the report as I believe it is only a matter of time before we encounter a Morecambe Bay type incident in the construction industry”.

The forum’s report runs counter to the policies agreed by the Labour Party at the National Policy Forum at Warwick earlier this month, where it was agreed to keep under review abuses of workers occurring in construction and whether the GLA should be extended to this sector.

For Further information contact Barckley Sumner on 0780 2329235

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