Industry Profiles - Recycling and Waste Industry - 2020
Here we look at labour exploitation in the recycling and waste industry and the headline trends for this sector including victim profiles, recruitment and accommodation in the UK.
Victims are reported to be male. Age is rarely reported. Romanian nationals are predominantly reported to be working in the sector.
Vulnerabilities are often targeted by exploiters including irregular migrants and those that have difficultly communicating in English. There are limited reports concerning the employment of minors.
Various locations have been reported; there is a slightly higher number in the West Midlands.
There are intelligence gaps around the recruitment of workers and limited reports suggest it can occur via friends or family or using an overseas recruitment agency.
Transport to the UK
There are limited reports of workers being transported to the UK by coach or bus.
Accommodation is often provided by the exploiter; a shared house is frequently reported. There are limited reports of workers living in outbuildings or in a vehicle. The accommodation is frequently described as unsanitary and unsafe. There are reports of rat infestations and fire safety concerns.
Workers report non-payment of National Minimum Wage; on average £4 an hour but can be as little as £2 per hour. Limited reporting suggests some workers cannot afford food.
Health and safety
Health and safety issues are a concern including a dangerous and/or unsanitary working environment and lack of PPE. Some workers have reported being burnt and explosions occurring.
Environmental concerns are driving a change in consumer behaviour, impacting on recycling rates and prompting an increase in the amount of recyclable packaging in use. More workers may be recruited, and workloads are likely to become increasingly demanding.
There are concerns that the points-based immigration system may result in a shortage of workers in the sector.
Key questions to prevent and identify labour exploitation
• Do recruitment processes include questions to identify whether a person may have been trafficked, paid work finding fees, or was otherwise exploited whilst seeking work?
• How do you ensure workers on site know how much they should be paid?
• Do you have any additional due diligence checks for workers at risk of being exploited? Including access to translation services?
• Do members of your organisation receive training on spotting the signs of modern slavery and labour exploitation? Are the auditors you use (if applicable) also trained?
• Do you have an internal escalation process if you identify an issue of exploitation? Do you know who to contact?
• Do you have a publicised reporting process for complaints by workers?
What to consider when reporting intelligence
Example: A Romanian supervisor is aggressive and threatens workers. Some workers are subjected to physical violence. Wages are sometimes withheld but workers are afraid to complain.
What else might assist the GLAA?
Provide more details about the workers involved:
- Do you know what language they speak or what nationality they are?
- Do any appear to be minors?
- Male or female? What hours do they work?
- Are there other indicators of control, for example provision of accommodation and transport to work?
- Do workers appear in good health?
Whilst not all factors may be known, any additional details will assist the GLAA in identifying people and locations involved for operational purposes and to improve our intelligence picture.
GLAA resources are available including our Spotting the Signs leaflet.
Who to contact
Please report to the GLAA:
• Unlicensed trading in the regulated sector (agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and any associated processing and packaging) across the UK.
• Labour market offences (non-payment of the National Minimum Wage, breach of Employment Agency Standards) in the regulated sector in England and Wales
• Individuals, labour users or labour providers who are suspected of modern slavery and human trafficking in any labour industry (excluding sexual exploitation), or individuals who are potential victims of such activity in England and Wales.
Please report to partners:
• Issues of National Minimum Wage only, in sectors that are not GLAA regulated to the HMRC NMW team (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/national-minimum-wage-enquiries-and-complaints)
• Health and safety issues only (all sectors) to the Health and Safety Executive (http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm)
• Workplace relations and employment law issues (including contract issues, discrimination and grievances) to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) (https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1410)
• When there is an immediate threat to life contact the police emergency number.
• To report labour exploitation, human trafficking or modern slavery outside of the regulated sectors in Northern Ireland or Scotland, contact the local police service.