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enter The number of workers that are trafficked, exploited and forced to work in UK construction is rising. Construction News speaks to one of the thousands of victims and asks what contractors must do to eradicate the stain of modern slavery.
“There were three of us all together in a room with no lights. They would lock us in when we weren’t working and threaten to fight us or kill us if we tried to leave.”
Four years after his ordeal, Jani is telling me about the months he spent working in UK construction under conditions of what is usually called modern slavery.
When Jani came to the UK in September 2011, he believed he would find a better life. He had been out of work in his native Hungary and was in desperate need of money when two men approached him with an attractive overseas job opportunity.
The offer? A wage of £2,000 a month, with both food and accommodation included, working for a small construction company in the UK.
The 29-year-old jumped at the chance. He had previous experience working on construction sites and this was the new start he’d been dreaming of. Jani bundled a few possessions in a bag and left for the UK.
But from the minute he left home, his dream began to fade.
“The car journey,” Jani begins, before pausing. “That wasn’t good.” When he went to meet the men who’d offered him the job, it turned out there were two other workers travelling with them on the long drive from Hungary to the UK. “There were five of us packed in a small car for two-and-a-half days.”
During the drive, the initially friendly job fixers’ demeanour started to change. After they crossed the border into the UK, the men took Jani’s passport away, telling him it would be safer under their control.
They then drove to a cramped, terraced house in a small town in south Yorkshire, where the full horror of Jani’s experience began.
Locked together in one room in a cold house with no heating or lighting, he and the two other young men from Hungary were let out only to work.
The days were exhausting, starting at 6am and not finishing until 11pm, at least five days a week, carrying out various bricklaying and painting jobs.
They were given scraps of cold food to eat and had only water to drink. Jani lost five stone in weight. If he tried to leave he was threatened with violence or death.
Contractors take note
Jani’s story is not an isolated case. The number of potential victims of human trafficking in the UK hit 3,266 in 2015, up 40 per cent from the 2,340 in 2014, according to the most recent statistics from the National Crime Agency.
Of these, 895 were classed as adult labour exploitation, a category which includes the construction industry – up more than 50 per cent from 582 in 2014.
This dramatic increase in organised criminal gang activity was one of the drivers behind the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which is intended to drive down forced and abusive labour across all industry sectors.
Most crucial for construction is the act’s requirement that commercial companies and their supply chains publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement. Pinsent Masons partner and regulatory lawyer Tom Stocker says this requirement will have a significant impact on the construction industry.
Domestic and overseas commercial businesses operating in the UK with a minimum turnover of £36m will have six months from 31 March to prepare a statement. “Most companies are not ready,” Mr Stocker states.
Many firms are starting work on the statements but he says the preparation needs to go beyond asking: “Have you got slaves?”
“It touches on whether you are abusing people’s personal circumstances,” he explains. “So, if you have overseas workers, are they using most of their pay for accommodation that you are providing? Are you removing their passports?”
And the focus should go beyond company boundaries. The risk of workers such as Jani finding their way into a contractor’s supply chain is a real one. The website Help Free the UK from Modern Slavery, which is supported by the Home Office, provides a useful list of signs that could indicate a worker is a victim of modern slavery (see box).
Many businesses have already started work to comply with the act and its aims, but are reluctant to go public until they have worked out the detail and how they will implement it.
One major London developer says: “We’ve identified [what we see as] the main areas of risk for the industry: demolition, scaffolding and multi-service gangs.”
The first two risk areas could be overcome by employing demolition and scaffolding contractors that are members of a certified industry organisation, he says. But he’s worried about how clients – and even more crucially, contractors – monitor the use of multi-service gangs.
“The problem is less for clients and more for contractors… they contract with hundreds of companies, whereas clients will mainly go to one main contractor,” he says.
Many main contractors are aware of the potential for forced or abusive labour to be hidden within second or third-tier contractors. “This is my big headache at the moment,” one major tier one contractor admits.
“How far down [my supply chain] do I look? And how do I get the level of comfort and confidence that it’s all good? That’s the question I’m worrying about the most.”
As the UK construction skills crisis gets worse and firms look overseas for workers as a short-term solution, the risks will increase. “This puts main contractors under more pressure to check that the subcontractors they’re engaging with are treating those overseas workers fairly,” Pinsent Mason’s Mr Stocker says.
It doesn’t stop there. Another area of risk for both clients and contractors is materials, with some proving difficult to trace back to their origin.
“You can quite often specify material such as stone, but where you think it’s coming from one part the world, it’s actually coming from another,” the London developer says. “So you don’t know whether the labour that has gone into [producing] that has been employed properly.”
This is also a challenge for contractors. The tier one says: “This is about looking at where we buy from within the UK as well as overseas. This could be a factory where it’s so far down the chain we can’t see it.”
There is actually no obligation on companies to take action to comply with the new law, but Mr Stocker says doing nothing is risky. “They could publish a statement which says, ‘We don’t do anything’,” he says. “The problem with this is you are unlikely to win any tenders.”
This is especially true with public sector and large commercial clients, which will start to use the legislation requirements in their tender criteria.
Winning work isn’t the only motive to take action, of course, as the tier one contractor points out: “It’s our job to spot the signs and help them out of it. If they have come over here from a horrendous, poverty-persecuted environment, and someone offers them £4 an hour and 10 people per room, then they will take it.
“Firing them doesn’t do them any good, it just puts them on the streets. So it’s about trying to do the right thing. For most contractors it’s not a matter of ticking boxes. We genuinely don’t want a situation where people are in wage bondage or don’t have access to their own passports. That’s not what we are about.”
For firms that don’t publish a statement, however, there are sanctions. The Home Office can get in contact telling them to publish one. If they refuse, they can get a court order requiring them do so. If that is ignored, firms could face prosecution.
“Contractors feel slightly daunted by this,” Mr Stocker says. “They feel it’s an additional layer of regulation that impacts margin. But the steps you have to take are relatively straightforward.”
Most businesses will already have a system in place for carrying out competency assessments of their suppliers and subcontractors. Mr Stocker says it’s as easy as adding a few questions to your existing processes, extending them to cover slavery enforced labour.
“The next thing companies would want to do is make their policy statement. This is similar to making a health and safety or environment statement,” he says.
This should be a one-page statement for suppliers and internal staff, explaining that the company is committed to engaging only with people who have fair and proper employment practices. After that, Mr Stocker recommends delivering basic staff training that draws employees’ attention to the act.
He says this should set out the company’s stance on modern slavery, including what the company expects of its employees and its suppliers. This could be done through a quick e-learning platform, Mr Stocker says.
A few steps are all it takes to help workers such as Jani, who remained trapped and abused in forced labour for months.
Jani was one of the lucky ones: he managed to escape.
Over time, he befriended one of his captors, who trustingly left the door unlocked one day. Jani seized his chance and bolted, running straight to the police.
The police referred him to City Hearts, the Salvation Army’s anti-trafficking unit, and the team there helped him to find the better life he had dreamed of.
Sadly, Jani’s captors escaped too: by the time the police arrived on the scene they had fled and have not been traced.
Knowing his traffickers are still out there makes it even more important to Jani to share his experience: “People need to know this story,” he says, to prevent the same thing happening to others.
Jani’s name has been changed to protect his identity
http://oceanadesigns.net/wp-json/oembed/1.0/embed?format=xml How does modern slavery happen?
“These men who are forced into labour are often responding to legitimate looking adverts,” explains Andrew Wileman from the Salvation Army’s anti-trafficking response team.
“They go along to an office, where they’re told: ‘There’s work available in the UK, it’s good pay, it’s building work, you turn up at the bus station on Friday, just bring along your passport and papers and don’t worry about the cost of your transport, we’ll sort that out.’
“Then they are met by reps of the organisation in London or wherever, after which they are taken to a house and start work but that is where the story unravels.”
Mr Wileman describes a case in the North of England where 20 Lithuanian men were found crammed together in one house.
“They’d been working 12 to 14-hour days and were living in a four-bed council house, with no pay and were only fed once a day.”
They had been carrying out labour for the building distribution arm of a well-known discounter client, when a local resident who was concerned about their antisocial behaviour alerted the police. “There are a lot of examples of this,” Mr Wileman says.
“Deadlines have to be met and somebody comes who is able to provide a certain amount of brickies to get the work done on time and very few questions will be asked. It’s just the nature of the beast.”
go to link Spotting the warning signs
PHYSICAL APPEARANCE Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, and look malnourished or unkempt.
ISOLATION Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own and seem under the control or influence of others.
FEW OR NO PERSONAL EFFECTS Victims may have no identification documents and few personal possessions. They may wear the same clothes every day and what clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work.
RESTRICTED FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had travel documents or passports removed.
UNUSUAL TRAVEL TIMES They may be dropped off or collected for work on a regular basis either very early in the morning or late at night.
RELUCTANT TO SEEK HELP Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcement. They may not know who to trust or where to get help, fearing deportation or violence against them or their family.
Children as young as seven are mining metals for your mobile phone, according to Amnesty International
Thousands of children, some as young as seven, are working in dangerous mines to produce a mineral which is powering mobile phones, computers and vehicle batteries around the world.
On Tuesday, 16 of the world’s most famous electronic brands, including Apple, Sony and Microsoft, are accused of failing to take ultimate responsibility for the sourcing of some raw components found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Major companies are failing to do “basic checks” to ensure that cobalt mined by child labourers has not been used in their products, said Amnesty International and Afrewatch in a major new report.
It traces the sale of cobalt, used in lithium-ion batteries, from mines where, it is claimed, children and adults work in perilous conditions.
When contacted by Amnesty and Afrewatch, companies said they had a “zero tolerance policy” on child labour. But critics say there is little regulation of DRC mines and the global cobalt market.
Children can work up to 12 hours for as little as $1-2 a day (69p-£1.40) in unregulated cobalt mines where few, if any, safety rules apply, investigators said.
The majority of the cobalt mined in the unregulated sector of Congo is sold to a Chinese-owned smelting company which supplies battery-component making factories around the world. Between Congo and Asia, the ultimate source of the materials is often unrecognised. Under international guidance, manufacturers are expected to trace the mineral from extraction, the circumstances of extraction and its export.
Apple said it took “any concerns seriously and investigate every allegation”. Sony said it was carrying out a “fact-finding” inquiry. Microsoft said it no longer sourced cobalt from a Chinese firm implicated in the DRC trade.
Original Source: http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/children-as-young-as-seven-are-mining-metals-for-your-mobile-phone-according-to-amnesty-international–Z1iW1cGs3x
More and more businesses are adopting flexible working arrangements to accommodate the abolition of the default retirement age. By doing so, employers can reap the benefits that older workers bring.
Since the abolition of the default retirement age in October 2011, Group Risk Development (GRiD)’s annual employer research study has tracked the progress employers have made in their journey from the initial logistics of operating without a mandatory retirement age to taking a more active approach towards accommodating older members of staff.
Back in 2011 our research showed that while employers were broadly accepting of the change, there were some concerns around how this would affect sickness absence and how to keep older workers fit and able to continue in their roles.
Fast forward three years and when asked about their priorities around health and wellbeing, 22% of employers said dealing with an ageing workforce was among their top three. The Group Risk Employer Research study was undertaken in October 2014 among a sample of 500 UK businesses with between 5 and 1,000 employees and a sample of 1,000 employees. It found that over a quarter of employers (27%) have introduced flexible working initiatives to meet the needs of their ageing workforce, with 19% modifying roles, 13% introducing job sharing and 16% changing procedures to ensure the needs of older workers are met.
A further 14% have introduced different working patterns, such as more frequent breaks, and 10% have bought in training for older workers to ensure they feel as up to speed as younger staff.
Of the employers questioned, 11% have seen an increase in absence rates due to an older workforce. One in five employers (20%) have seen a rise in age-related conditions such as diabetes and arthritis indicating that the concerns expressed in 2011 are, indeed, materialising. However 15% have refocused their health, wellbeing and absence initiatives in order to better manage these members of staff.
Employee attitudes towards working longer are evolving too. When asked how their needs will change as the UK workforce ages, over a third (36%) said they thought they would have to supplement their pension by continuing to work, while 22% said they would want to carry on working for enjoyment and routine regardless of their financial position. A further 35% admitted they would have to save more to sustain a longer retirement.
Interestingly, one in five (20%) recognised that in order to stay in work, they would need increasingly more health-related support and a quarter (24%) felt they would need help staying fit and active. This, coupled with the increased incidence of age-related health conditions that employers are reporting, means businesses really do need to think ahead and better anticipate the needs of their workforce as it ages.
Although employers are not actually obliged to extend provision of insured protection products beyond age 65 (the general state pension age), many are choosing to do so – particularly as death or disability has a life changing impact on staff and/or their families irrespective of age. Crucially, these products include additional support services which can be extremely effective in keeping people in the workplace, giving them the help they need to make life changes and supporting them back to work.
Protecting older workers protects the business
We still see a lot of employers who have not changed their benefit plans to accommodate older workers so it’s worth revisiting benefit provision to ensure that it fully reflects the business’s intentions around the needs of its ageing workforce. It is particularly important to ensure there are no gaps left on closure of a defined benefit pension scheme or a mismatch between contractual promises and any insurance in place to cover such liabilities.
This is also about protecting businesses. To reap the benefits that older workers can bring, employers must address the possible challenges ahead and act now to ensure they have robust initiatives and benefits in place to effectively manage the health and attendance of an older workforce when the time comes.
Katharine Moxham, Group Risk Development
See more at: https://sm.britsafe.org/why-protecting-older-workers-protects-bottom-line#sthash.uSwC7nhs.dpuf
A 3-month online project set to explore “the evolution of the workplace” has been launched by the BIFM and the professional HR body, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
The project, named ‘the Workplace Conversation’ will examine the evolution of the working environment and what the future of the workplace may look like.
The project will explore topics such as the emergence of new technologies, economic forces and flexible working alternatives, and their impact on business performance and the way people work.
It seeks to engage in a 3-month online conversation “which will draw insights, ideas and practical solutions from individuals across a range of countries”.
Participants will be set specific tasks throughout the duration of the project including submitting ideas for creating better workplaces in the future, one of which will be voted as the best.
FM and HR professionals, and anyone with an interest in the future of the workplace, can participate in the initiative, according to the BIFM.
Gareth Tancred, CEO of BIFM launching the project at the annual Workplace Futures Conference 2015, said: “We’ve spent a number of months working with the CIPD, planning and putting the framework in place to deliver this ambitious initiative.”
He added: “Whilst there has been plenty written about the changing nature of the workplace, we’re keen to hear from those at the frontline of having to manage the types of changes we’re experiencing, in order to help shape the discussion….This is a crowd-led initiative and we look forward to seeing a host of great ideas and thoughts contributed from a wide range of FM and HR professionals.”
Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, said: “Workplaces have incredible potential to both influence and reflect corporate cultures, behaviours and working styles but it takes teams from across the business to create the right kind of workplace…The Workplace Conversation is a great opportunity to bring FM and HR professionals together to understand and influence how workplace design can positively affect engagement and productivity while reinforcing corporate values and culture.”
This project is the first of a number of research initiatives between BIFM and the CIPD which will assess how FM and HR professionals are adapting to the changing nature of work.
Visit www.workplaceconversation.com to register and post your thoughts and ideas.
See more at: http://www.fm-world.co.uk/news/fm-industry-news/bifm-and-cipd-launch-crowd-led-workplace-conversation/#sthash.H4xmGWk8.dpuf