Anti-trafficking NGOs in the UK are warning that tens of thousands of European migrant workers in the UK construction industry are vulnerable to trafficking and labor exploitation.
NGO Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) found that at least a third of London’s 100,000 construction workers — largely from Romania and Poland — have done work for no pay or have been verbally for physically abused.
The construction industry contributes a massive 100 billion pounds to the UK economy each year and employs around 2.3 million people. However, it is also a sector that has has a high prevalence of labor exploitation.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
About one in eight of nearly 1,300 slavery cases recorded by Britain’s anti-slavery hotline in 2017 involved the construction industry, according to charity Unseen, which runs the service.
“Yet much of the construction industry is still in denial … and has been lagging behind the food and apparel sectors (in addressing modern slavery),” said Klara Skrivankova, UK and Europe manager for charity Anti-Slavery International.
“We need proactive labor inspection across the construction industry so that workers can report abuse early before modern slavery takes root,” said Caroline Robinson, director of FLEX, adding that many laborers were too scared or did not know how to make complaints.
Cindy Berman of the Ethical Trading Initiative added that the government needs better oversight, but workers also need to be able to represent and organize themselves. “Companies must also open their doors for trade unions to be able to represent workers and negotiate better terms and conditions,” she said.
Just last week the Council of Europe issued a new report that showed that labor trafficking has now overtaken sex trafficking as the main form of modern slavery in Europe.