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Cheap labour poses risks to construction jobs

The London Olympics is in danger of being tarnished by the use of cheap migrant labour said Jim Sheridan, Labour MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire North, as he moved a 10-Minute Rule Bill in Parliament on 13 June.

He wants an extension of the existing agricultural gangmaster legislation to cover the construction industry. “In the context of the Olympics ideal, fragmentation and self-employment across the 9,000-strong work force would be a gangmasters' gold rush which would compromise safety, drive down pay and conditions, and fail to deliver the promised legacy of creating skills and jobs for local people” he said.

“The benefits of regulated employment can be seen from other Olympic examples. At least 13 construction workers died during the building of the Athens Olympic site in 2004, which relied on casualised self-employed workers. There was one fatality during the construction for Sydney in 2000, which used a direct employment model.”

“Sadly, UK construction also has a darker side, where vulnerable workers are ripped off by unscrupulous labour providers, health and safety law is ignored by dodgy employers, and the lives of innocent, hard-working people are lost through criminal, but too often unpunished, negligence. If we look carefully into the long shadows of construction, we will detect the outline of a familiar figure—the rogue gangmaster.”

“…there are …a growing number of rogue operators in the unregulated construction sector who operate in precisely the same shameful way they once did in the sectors now regulated by the 2004 Act. The sad paradox for vulnerable workers and decent bosses is that construction is the fastest growing sector of the economy, yet it is also the least regulated.”

“Worst of all, health and safety laws are being broken to such an extent that deaths in construction rose by a staggering 25 per cent. last year. In fact, things are now so dangerous that construction workers are seven times more likely to die at work than workers in any other industry.”

One of the sponsors of the bill is Harry Cohen Labour MP for Leyton & Wanstead.

Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004. Hansard
13 Jun 2007 : Column 778

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