ORGANISED CRIME specialists have warned the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and contractors to watch out for an epidemic of illegal immigrant workers being offered as cheap labour in the run up to the London 2012 Games.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is concerned that human trafficking by eastern European organised crime gangs will reach frightening levels as construction workloads boom.
Criminal gangmasters pocket the pay of terrified illegal immigrants who are put to work to pay off their passage (see box).
'SOCA came to talk to us about east European organised criminals bringing in gangs of illegal immigrants, ' a senior executive at one of the UK's biggest contractors told NCE.
'The gangmasters are going to be attracted by the money to be made out of the UK industry's huge demand for labour over the next six years.' The ODA confirmed it had also recieved a visit from SOCA.
It is estimated that an extra 50,000 construction workers will be needed to build all the projects created by the London Games.
SOCA and the police are concerned about criminals trafficking people via Romania and Bulgaria when they join the EU on 1 January 2007. Construction is one of the sectors that SOCA says is vulnerable.
'We are maintaining a dialogue with industry to keep it abreast of the problem of human trafficking, ' said a SOCA spokesman.
The ODA said it was working with SOCA to reduce the opportunities for organised crime.
'Security checks will be put in place to check all the legal documents of personnel to ensure they have the right to work in this country, ' said an ODA spokesman.
It is expected that SOCA will also talk to subcontractors and labour-only suppliers.
'We told SOCA to talk to the subcontractors who employ most of the labour, ' said one main contractor. Another claimed that the requirement for all workers to have a Construction Skills Certification Scheme card would make it all but impossible for its sites to be a haven for human trafficking.
But subcontractors blasted the industry for its attitude to a growing problem.
'It shows the amazing naivity of the construction industry, ' said one leading supplier. 'It's like saying there is no credit card fraud because there is chip and pin. CSCS cards can be bought on the black market. Legitimate front companies can be set up to deliver the illegal labour.'
'Contractors are happy to take the cheapest price for labour, and don't ask questions.
They hide behind lump sum prices which don't reveal the rates being paid.
'Clients can try to be responsible but the prices they expect to pay for projects on the advice of their professionals are all based on cheap labour costs.' If you suspect human trafficked labour is being used on your site contact the police.