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Welcome to the blog of Members’ Forum 2017.

Building a Fairer System

Tackling Modern Slavery in Construction Supply Chains

Media reports give the impression that modern slavery is more likely in other industries – fashion, electronics, fishing and agricultural sectors immediately spring to mind. But modern slavery, human trafficking and labour market exploitation are serious problems facing the construction sector too.

This in-depth CIOB report follows last year’s campaign brochure entitled Modern Slavery: the Dark Side of Construction which was aimed at raising awareness of modern slavery and possible areas of best practice. We have consulted widely with a range of NGOs, industry organisations and government to find out what’s going on in the industry – what we can learn – and how we can act together. A further report will be available in the autumn.

Our report principally looks at how workers from developing nations become trapped – and end up working on some of the world’s prestigious projects. Corruption plays a major part too. As we know, problems start in the home nations, when exorbitant recruitment fees are paid to get a job – which is illegal. On arrival, workers are heavy in debt and exploitation soon becomes the reality. Contractors and companies are complicit in the problems – either through ignorance or through turning a blind eye.

Tackling illegal recruitment fees is going to be one the biggest challenges of the next twenty years and the Modern Slavery Act or at least the supply chain transparency measures is galvanising the industry – but bringing with it a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty. Companies need help in ensuring they are meetings their requirements. Although the act is not forcing companies to take action – yet – pressure from the public and investors is likely to grow. There is an indisputable business case for reform. And fundamentally, it’s the right thing to do.

Modern slavery can be thought of in terms of practices that are clearly illegal, such as people trafficking. But our report also looks at more subtle forms of exploitation. In particular, how modern slavery can infiltrate international supply chains of prestigious clients, and how people can become entrapped through seemingly legitimate routes. Slavery is infiltrating most supply chains in some form or other – and reputations are at stake.

Whilst our focus in this report is international, we intend to follow up with a companion piece on the UK construction sector later in the year.

The CIOB will remain at the forefront of this issue as construction simply cannot afford to get left behind. On a positive note, our report has some inspirational examples of best practice that show that change is a real possibility if we work together.

The report can be found online here.

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