Co-op Group signs protocol to end modern slavery in the construction industry

Meanwhile, East of England and Midcounties Co-ops have signed up to the Bright Future scheme to help survivors

The Co-op Group has become the first business outside the building sector to adhere to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority’s (GLAA) protocol to help eliminate modern slavery from the construction industry.

The retailer committed to removing labour exploitation from all its supply chains, including food, goods, and services not for resale, as well as construction and facilities management.

The signatories of the GLAA protocol agree to work in partnership to protect vulnerable workers, share information to help stop or prevent the exploitation of workers, work together to manage information sensitively and confidentially, and raise awareness within the supply chain.

The Co-op Group is already offering jobs to victims of modern slavery through Bright Future, an employment scheme developed in partnership with charity City Hearts.

The programme has attracted 10 more businesses who signed up to the scheme earlier this month. These include co-operative independent societies Midcounties and East of England.

Andrew Lofty, director of construction at the Co-op Group, said: “I would urge all companies to join us and sign this important protocol which looks to eliminate modern slavery and labour exploitation from supply chains.

“We work across so many supply chains, not just food, where workers can be exposed to modern slavery.

“Our estates group engages with businesses building and maintaining our stores and the facilities management team interface with a variety of companies while our insurance business works with home repair contractors.

“Many of these involve sub-contracted labour and often multiple sub contracts – all with the potential to hide the worst excesses of labour exploitation.”

Mark Heath, deputy director of business change at GLAA, said: “We are delighted that the Co-op [Group] has signed up to our construction protocol and pledged to fight modern slavery and labour abuse.

“When organisations agree to the protocol, they commit to work in partnership with us to protect vulnerable and exploited workers. They also agree to share information to stop exploitation and pledge to raise awareness of slavery through supply chains.

“Around three million people are employed in UK construction and the industry contributes over £100bn to the economy. However, there are challenges and we consider construction to be a high-risk sector for labour abuse and exploitation.

“It is, therefore, more important than ever for respected organisations such as the Co-op [Group] to sign up to the protocol and work with us to protect the reputation of the construction industry. Together, we can put an end to modern slavery and labour exploitation for good.”

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