There are an estimated 45 million enslaved people globally with modern slavery reported in 167 countries. Our campaign to tackle the many forms of bonded labour and slavery that exist in construction began at our Members Forum in Qatar in 2014. We collected insight from our members on the ground and discussed the respect for people agenda in the region with organisations like the Qatar Foundation (a major government client), Amnesty International and Engineers Against Poverty.
It became clear that modern slavery often starts in the country of origin of migrant workers. In July 2015 we examined the issue in our Modern Slavery: The Dark Side of Construction report; which called for greater recognition of migrant workers and highlighted the plight made by millions of construction workers across the globe.
Recommendations from the report centred on the need to create an all-encompassing approach to the issue of modern slavery, with contributions from government, industry and NGOs.
Operation Magnify, an enforcement initiative launched by the Home Office, targeted businesses that employed or exploited illegal migrant workers. The CIOB supported the campaign and cited that migrants without the right to work become vulnerable, and, as our industry tells us, are at serious risk of injury, exploitation and human rights abuses.
Following the passing of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015. Now, any UK-based businesses with a turnover of more than £36 million must report annually on what they are doing to tackle slavery in their supply chains.
With its fragmented supply chains, opaque procurement processes and high demand for migrant labour, the construction sector faces a unique set of challenges in tackling human rights abuses. In consultation with a number of businesses and NGOs we examined the root causes of slavery and set out priority actions for moving the industry towards greater transparency.
The report called Building A Fairer System: tackling modern slavery in construction supply chains was launched at the Houses of Parliament and called on clients and tier one organisations to take greater responsibility for their supply chains.
Our membership is an influential community and as members of the CIOB they subscribe to a set of values and behaviours. That ethical dimension of membership is an important lever in combating the exploitation of migrant workers. The CIOB Academy notched up an industry first with the launch of a free massive open online course (MOOC) on ethics and compliance tailor made for construction professionals. It compliments previous directed CIOB learning for members on what they need to know, and can do, to prevent modern slavery occurring in their own businesses.
In 2017 the CIOB collaborated with Stronger Together, an industry alliance, to provide a toolkit to help construction businesses shape their response as they tackle modern slavery. The guidance provides construction and its clients with practical resources and training based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights framework and in compliance with the UK Modern Slavery act requirements.
The CIOB are signatories of the "Modern Slavery and The UK Construction Sector Industry Charter" as a part of which we commit to seek opportunities to uphold, preserve and promote the right of freedom in the United Kingdom’s Construction Industry. Specifically, we are committed to:
- Developing tools, materials and training that support the development of best practice approaches to the issue of business and human rights
- Supporting best practice through collaboration and research
- Using our influence, and working with relevant authorities, to champion the abolition of illegal and unethical practices whenever they are found
Four years on from the CIOB Members Forum in Qatar, where this campaign began, the Institute turned its focus onto the UK, curious to see what the industry was doing in light of the Modern Slavery Act. Construction and the Modern Slavery Act, Tackling Exploitation in the UK was published in 2018 and criticised the industry’s slow response to the Modern Slavery Act. The report highlighted the aggressive business models that create an environment for unethical procurement and recruitment practices, and the systematic auditing failures that allow criminals to infiltrate major projects undetected.