Leading the way against modern slavery in construction

Leading the way against modern slavery in construction

Ciara writes:

Construction News has recently published a report highlighting worker exploitation through modern slavery practices in the construction sector.

This comes just days after six Romanian men in their 20s were rescued from alleged slavery in east London on 13 November.

How many more reports like this will we have to read before the sector comes together to tackle the issue?

In the same way that safety is everyone’s responsibility, every single one of us has a responsibility to protect the liberty of those around us.

If the construction industry continues to work in silos on this subject, criminal organisations will continue to operate – and thrive. Our whole industry needs to collaborate to stop these abhorrent crimes. I urge all companies to become actively involved with the GLAA, share their experiences and sign the construction protocol.

Modern Slavery Influencers indexOver the last 24 months, VGC has led the way in preventing modern slavery in construction.

We were proud to be the first labour supplier (and just the third company in the UK) to achieve the Ethical Labour Sourcing Standard BRE 6002. And I was honoured to be listed in the inaugural UK Top100 Corporate Modern Slavery Influencers’ index.

As part of the BRE 6002 process we undertook a full risk assessment of our business management systems. We examined all the stages in our recruitment and people management processes to see how we could reduce the risks of exploitation.

It was clear that good recruitment and employee management practices are key to minimising risk – and how fortunate we are to have excellent people heading up the relevant teams (see below).

The wellbeing of our people is a key business objective for VGC, and embedded in our corporate culture. We ensure that the employment opportunities we offer to our people provide economic security, and a safe environment for them to work, as well as an opportunity for them to develop and improve their prospects through training, development and empowerment.

Sharing our knowledge

We are sharing our experiences, processes and knowledge with industry wherever possible. For example, I presented at the Modern Slavery and Ethical Labour in Construction Leadership Symposium at RIBA in September 2018.

We have also begun an intensive internal education programme.

We have developed a bespoke training package on how to spot the signs of modern slavery, and what to do if you have suspicions. Trained FIR ambassadors are delivering this training to all our office employees and labour managers, and a number of clients have expressed an interest in having us deliver the package on their sites across the country. Members of our team are presenting to the workforce on Thames Tideway next week.

If you are interested in attending one of our sessions, or if you wish to discuss hosting a training session on your site, please contact me.

Ciara Pryce
Author: Ciara Pryce, group services director

The people working with me to lead our campaign against modern slavery in construction are:

  • Laura Perry, HR manager
  • Kimberley McGinty, skills and development adviser
  • Fiona Dowling, HSQE adviser.