Unite, the construction union, has described a new report by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) as ‘hitting the nail on the head’ in identifying the reasons why exploitation and modern slavery are so prevalent in the construction industry.
The report, ‘The Natures and Scale of Labour Exploitation across all Sectors within the United Kingdom’, said: “The often convoluted supply chains in the industry makes identifying potential exploitation and ending illegal practices challenging.”
The report also said: “There is reported to be widespread use of self-employment as the preferred contracting arrangement in this sector, with a direct link to exploitation … Despite being registered as self-employed, many workers will have in fact worked exclusively for one company for many years. Furthermore, the manner in which workers are directed to undertake work is unlikely to meet the criteria to be correctly defined as self-employed.”
Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “This important and authoritative report from the GLAA ‘hits the nail on the head’ when it comes to identifying how and why exploitation occurs in the construction industry.
“The report is entirely right to identify that not only does false self-employment deny workers basic employment rights but by barring them from receiving holiday and sick pay, these workers are automatically being exploited and further abuses are likely.
“The report is also right to highlight that the extended and convoluted supply chains, makes identifying who a worker’s real employer is very difficult, while the use of exploitative payment methods such as umbrella companies makes these matters even more confusing.
“This report needs to be carefully studied by the industry and by government as the current status quo is clearly not acceptable. Employers must reform working practices to ensure that the unscrupulous cannot exploit workers and the government should be forcing employers to take such appropriate action.
“Unite is committed to tackling exploitation in any form whenever it is identified. We will be stepping up our activities in the coming months and naming and shaming companies that are allowing exploitation on their sites. The conspiracy of silence must end.”