CIOB shines a light on the dark side of construction

Chris Blythe
Chris Blythe

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has launched a report which shines a light on the prevalence of human rights abuses in construction in almost every corner of the globe.

With an estimated 36 million enslaved people globally and modern slavery reported in 167 countries, the report, entitled: Modern Slavery: The Dark Side of Construction outlines the many forms of slavery and bonded labour that exist worldwide, and calls for a greater recognition of migrant workers. The report also seeks to highlight the plight made by millions of construction workers across the globe.

Recommendations from the report centre of the need to create an all-encompassing approach to the issue of modern slavery, with contributions from government, industry, and NGOs.

The report was unveiled to CIOB Trustees and global representatives at the Annual Members’ Forum in Cambridge. It follows on from the 2014 Members’ Forum in Qatar where the Institute discussed CSR and the respect for people agenda in the region. The Institute also signed a memorandum of understanding with the government client, the Qatar Foundation, encouraging uptake of their migrant worker welfare initiative through CIOB membership.

Since then, the CIOB has been working with a range of organisations to increase awareness of human rights abuses in the sector. The report aims to kick-start discussions on what we, as individuals and organisations, can do to increase transparency at every level of the supply chain, and combat modern slavery.

As the report notes, human rights abuses are prevalent across the globe, and workers can be equally vulnerable in their home country, as they are abroad. Indeed, the UK has recently undergone scrutiny with the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which has been designed to tackle instances of domestic slavery. Like the UK’s Bribery Act 2010, it applies to large businesses with operations in the UK, including partnerships and companies registered overseas – and worldwide.

Chris Blythe, chief executive of the CIOB, said: “Changing legislation globally will commit companies to report on their activities and this, combined with stakeholder pressure, is what we believe will force compliance.

“And these issues are not just limited to outside the UK; delayed wages, abysmal working conditions, withholding of passports and limitations of movement are all forms of modern slavery.”

Commenting on the dark side on construction, he concluded: “Contractors should be opening up their supply chains to independent scrutiny.”

Responding to the changes in worker welfare in the Gulf region, Stephen Lines FCIOB, said: “An estimated half a million foreign workers are working within Qatar’s construction sector and human rights violations have been, rightfully, well documented. But change is happening – living conditions, payment practices and employment law have all improved over the past year and many more initiatives are planned.

“Responsibility for change does not rest with the government alone, though. It is imperative that support is gained from professionals, including CIOB members, working at the top of the supply chain to ensure that good practice is upheld and enforced among all teams.”

The report concludes that creating viable and effective frameworks will help protect human rights in the industry, but must be monitored with care, placed as a central pillar to the business – and not treated as an afterthought.

A copy of the report can be accessed here.

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