“Worst to Work in” – Why the UK’s poor working practices could be an opportunity for the sector

Construction has seen its fair share of bad treatment of employees with scandals such as blacklisting, false self-employment and zero hours contracts all hitting the headlines in recent months.

It should be noted that it is not only this sector which is not performing when it comes to the rights and protection of the workforce.

In fact the UK as a whole came in with a fairly abysmal score of 3 in an index developed by the International Trade Union Confederation. A score of 3 identifies that the following is happening: –

  • Regular violation of rights
  • Governments or companies are regularly interfering in collective labour rights
  • There are deficiencies in laws and/or certain practices that make these violations

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Countries with recent histories of disruption such as Rwanda, Malawi and Montenegro have all been able to achieve a higher score.

Shame aside, there are a couple of reasons why this is important to us in construction, firstly with such a transient workforce and global construction companies it’s good to know where we may or may not experience a more (or less) troubled workforce.

Secondly, and rather more importantly, whilst we acknowledge that as a sector we are not leading the field in relation to treatment of our workers, the introduction of industry-wide content-driven tools, such as the CITB Be Fair Framework, provide us with an opportunity to change that.

Because if we can bring about change and show that we can provide a safe supportive environment to work in, coupled with the pre-existing positives of the sector such as variety, chance to travel and being part of a team, we will have a tangible, fascinating, business-leading product; if we can do that we might just gain the edge on securing key talent for our future.


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