The Unite union is calling for legislation to regulate gangmasters who exploit migrant workers in the UK construction industry.
The government introduced the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority in 2004, after the Morecambe Bay disaster, where a number of Chinese workers drowned, but this only covers certain sectors such as agriculture and food, and not construction.
The unions have backed a proposal from Labour MP Jim Sheridan to extend the authiority’s remit to cover construction.
Unite national officer for construction Bob Blackman said: “We are all fully aware of the dangerous environment that our members in the construction industry face. Migrant workers who come to this country for legitimate work are often lured into the twilight world of illegal gangmasters.
“We must focus on the real villains in this case and that is the gangmasters. Unite has found that those who have suffered under the once poor agricultural working conditions are now experiencing the same problems in the construction industry.
“Health and safety is essential to those in the building trade and our members have the fundamental right to return safe after a days work.
“Unite fully support Jim Sheridan’s Bill to see gangmaster licensing legislation extended to the construction industry,” he said.
Unite says it has unearthed a growing list of abuses of migrant labour in the UK construction industry.
Most abused workers have been supplied by agencies in countries with lower wage economies. These workers are paid below going rate, suffer disproportionate deductions from their wages have poor health and safety provisions.
Unite say illegal gangmasters are supplying unskilled labour to major construction companies and their subcontractors to carry out skilled and dangerous work without taking into consideration the safety consequences.