GLAA features in Crimewatch Live report on hand car washes
20th September 2021
Efforts by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and partners to combat labour exploitation and ensure that hand car washes are law-abiding, responsible businesses, have been highlighted by the flagship BBC programme Crimewatch Live.
The episode, which aired on BBC One on Monday September 20, visits a compliant car wash in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, which has been accredited by the Responsible Car Wash Scheme (RCWS).
Thousands of hand car washes have popped up across the UK over the last decade, and while many follow all the rules and regulations, the GLAA and other law enforcement agencies have uncovered issues ranging from non-payment of the National Minimum Wage and health and safety breaches to modern slavery.
The RCWS aims to address some of these issues by levelling the playing field for operators, enabling them to compete on an equal footing with their competitors.
The scheme has been developed with the GLAA and other enforcement bodies to be a positive force in improving conditions for workers by upholding their rights and protecting them from exploitative practices.
Operators are also educated about the regulations that apply to them and their responsibilities in protecting consumers and the environment.
Teresa Sayers, Managing Director of the RCWS, said: “Crimewatch Live provides a fantastic platform to highlight to the public potential indicators of worker exploitation that may be present at hand car washes.
“We ask the public to consider the price paid for the service provided, the payment methods available and to look at what the workers are wearing. What you see when next visiting a car wash could be an indicator of exploitation.
“The RCWS wants to make it easier for the public to identify a car wash that looks after its workers, protects the environment, cares for its customers and trades legally. Operators that meet our standard will display the RCWS logo.”
Darryl Dixon from the GLAA said: “We want to help the public make informed decisions about where they take their cars to be washed. There is a clear choice between using a fully compliant operator that has been through the RCWS accreditation process and verified by audits and spot-checks, and one that simply has not.
“Through our enforcement activity, we have seen examples of modern slavery at hand car washes where vulnerable workers are exploited for their labour. They are often not paid the correct wages or provided with any suitable personal protective equipment, and in some cases, live in overcrowded, unsanitary accommodation controlled by their exploiter.
“Exploiting vulnerable workers like this is completely unacceptable and we encourage the public to report their suspicions so we can take appropriate action.
“But we recognise that enforcement alone will not raise standards and drive up compliance across the board which is why the RCWS is such an important scheme in educating operators about their responsibilities in running a responsible car wash.”
Caroline Virgo, Director of The Clewer Initiative, said: “We are aware that some hand car washes in the UK may be exploiting workers and forcing them to work and live in unsafe conditions for little money.
“We want to raise public awareness so that people can help in identifying and reporting businesses where there may be such risks. If the business is legitimate, no one will get in trouble so if people have any concerns whatsoever, they must speak up.
“One easy way to be on the alert is to download The Safe Car Wash app. It’s really quick and easy to use – it asks a series of questions related to signs of modern slavery and helps the user know if they should get in touch with the Modern Slavery Helpline.
“By each of us doing a small thing like using the app, we can help make a massive difference. Victims of modern slavery are real people - just like every one of us, but they are trapped in exploitation, often living under threat of violence with nowhere to turn. They need us to notice them and start reporting our suspicions so that the criminals behind these enterprises can be caught and prosecuted.”
You can download the Safe Car Wash app here.
Find out more about the RCWS and how car wash operators can apply to become members here.
Also listen back to a seven-part podcast series produced by the GLAA and RCWS:
• What is the Responsible Car Wash Scheme?
• Spotting the signs of exploitation at hand car washes
• Pay and the National Minimum Wage
• Why health and safety matters
• Is your car wash trading standards compliant?
• Labour exploitation: a victim’s story
• Exploatarea prin muncă: povestea unei victim