Report on migrant abuse in construction industry proposes ‘gangmaster law’ extension

Migrant abuse in the construction industry must be tackled within two years or ‘gangmaster law’ should be extended to cover the sector, a government select committee has recommended.

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) – which monitors labourer providers in industries including agriculture, shellfish gathering and food packaging – could see its remit extended to cover the construction industry after a Home Affairs Select Committee found evidence of poor working conditions on many building sites.

The committee’s Trade in Human Beings report uncovered assaults and threats of violence against staff, and pay below the minimum wage.

The report also raised concerns at evidence of “the increasing incidence of gangmasters providing labour to major construction sites”.

Labour providers in the construction industry are currently regulated by the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate.

The report said: “If after two years the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate has not succeeded in reducing abuse, then the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority should be extended to cover construction.”

As an alternative to the expansion of the GLA’s remit, the committee also suggested existing regulatory bodies could be given the equivalent licensing and enforcement powers.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, told Personnel Today: “We warmly welcome the select committee’s report, it’s what we have long been campaigning for. We hope that the government accepts the select committee’s findings and extends the GLA without delay.”

The report also highlighted the need for greater training of public officials to ensure they can identify forced labour when they encounter it.

The report said: “There is a need to train a variety of public officials – health service workers, social workers, building inspectors, health and safety inspectors and others – about the various indicators of forced labour, and where to find help if they suspect someone has been trafficked.”

Last month the Health and Safety Executive found migrants working in construction were twice as likely to die on site than their British counterparts.

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