A collective of seven of the UK’s largest contractors brought together by public sector procurement specialists SCAPE, have reaffirmed their commitment to eradicating modern day slavery in the construction industry to mark World Anti-Slavery Day 2021 (18 October).
Leading national players including Balfour Beatty, Kier, Morgan Sindall, Willmott Dixon, Mace, Sisk and McLaughlin & Harvey have all pledged to increase their efforts to tackle unethical supply chain practices and boost employment opportunities for survivors of modern slavery.
The pledges will see independent 24/7 modern slavery helplines established across SCAPE projects to support victims and whistle-blowers in reporting concerns or incidences. Representing a buying power of £18bn, SCAPE is currently performance managing more than 1,800 live, taxpayer funded projects across the UK, and is committed to ensuring that every project is delivered with ethical labour.
The Ethical Labour working group operated under the advice of global supply chain organisation ACHILLES and Mark Heath of Mercaston Solutions, a consultancy advising businesses on modern slavery and a former deputy director at the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.
More than 10,000 people in the UK have been identified as potential victims of modern slavery, according to the Home Office’s latest annual figures, although the total number is likely to be much greater. Reports of suspected modern slavery cases in construction were higher than in any other industry during the first Covid lockdown, according to figures from modern slavery charity Unseen.
The firms involved will also increase their engagement with social enterprises who support survivors of modern slavery through SCAPE’s Social Partnership Portal, which was launched last month. The new digital platform will enable industry to engage with an extensive network of socially focused and accredited suppliers, increasing the employment opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery.
The Ethical Labour Working Group founded by these organisations will collaborate in creating industry best-practice guidance in relation to workforce engagement and labour audits.
Mark Robinson, group chief executive at SCAPE, said: “Modern slavery has no place in an economy as developed as the UK’s, and yet it still maintains a presence in some of our most important industries – construction included. The public sector must always act as a flagbearer in stamping unethical practice out, setting standards and stimulating positive change through the partners it works with.
“As World Anti-Slavery Day reminds us of the increased need for action post-pandemic, the collective power of this group of major contractors in the coming years – combined with best-in-class procurement practices – can go a long way to improving our industry’s record and ultimately lift people out of slavery.”