CIOB calls on construction to act against exploitation

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) is calling for construction companies and clients to do more to eradicate cruel and unfair labour practices, wherever they occur.

The CIOB says that clients and tier one organisations can no longer turn a blind eye to what goes on down the supply chain, stating that they need to take greater responsibility for their supply chains and not simply take the lowest offer.

In particular, priority should be given to tackling illegal recruitment fees, the institute argues.

But the industry also needs to accept its complicity with the mistreatment of workers on the other side of the world.

All of this is set out in a new report from the CIOB, Building a fairer system: tackling modern slavery in construction supply chains, written by Emma Crates.

The report, produced in consultation with a number of businesses and NGOs, including Amnesty International, Verité, Engineers Against Poverty and the Institute for Human Rights and Business, examines the root causes of unpaid labour, and sets out priority actions for moving the industry towards greater transparency.

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, the report says.

Building a fairer system examines how workers from developing countries become tricked or coerced into paying illegal and extortionate recruitment fees, and, once in debt, become vulnerable to exploitation in their place of work. Abuses range from forced or bonded labour, late payment, unsanitary living conditions, unfair deductions from wages, withheld passports and loss of freedom of movement, lack of representation, violence, intimidation and physical abuse.

The report also examines how faults in the procurement process allow exploitative practices to remain hidden in building materials supply chains.

The report makes a series of recommendations for the construction supply chain:

Recommendations for tier one organisations:

  1. Map out supply chains and identify areas of highest risk, geographically and by activity. Tackle these areas first
  2. Lead policy from the top of an organisation, at CEO and COO level
  3. Provide tailored training and education to staff at all levels of the business.
  4. Work directly with labour supply agents and/or increase the proportion of directly employed labour on a project
  5. Take more responsibility for shifting the culture in lower tiers of the supply chain: provide support and training for SMEs
  6. Collaborate with NGOs that can provide support and understanding of the complex challenges of different regions
  7. Set long term strategy by following international guidance produced by organisations such as the UN Global Compact, the Ethical Trading Initiative, the Institute for Human Rights and Business, OECD or the International Labour Organization

Recommendations for procurement teams and materials producers:

  1. Educate procurement teams and improve communication between the professions - designers, engineers and architects and project managers - to ensure that boardroom policy is translated to site and subcontractor levels
  2. Embed robust checking procedures that do not default to box ticking exercises or ineffective audits
  3. Work directly with suppliers to help them improve their practices

Recommendations for industry:

  1. Participate in cross industry initiatives, sharing best practice and drawing on expertise from other sectors
  2. Encourage and support the development of ethical recruitment companies
  3. Influence and lobby clients and governments to accelerate change
  4. Encourage widespread adoption of ethical standards.

Building a fairer system: tackling modern slavery in construction supply chains can be found at

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