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February 18, 2010

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New resource targets vulnerable construction workers

A project to help construction workers who face exploitation, or are

forced to work in dangerous situations will be formally launched next


The Vulnerable Workers Project is being led by construction union UCATT, and has received funding from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills via the Union Modernisation Fund. Initially, the project’s focus will be on helping groups that are particularly vulnerable, such as young workers/apprentices, agency workers, migrant employees, and tradespeople who come into contact with asbestos.

Running for two years, the scheme currently has two members of staff based in Derby, but their work will cover the whole of England and all vulnerable construction workers, not just UCATT members. The staff will provide one-to-one advice for vulnerable workers, as well as training and literature for relevant groups. Information will be distributed via UCATT officials, other partner organisations, and third-sector bodies that already have links with vulnerable workers.
In September last year, the Government launched a Pay and Work Rights helpline, as part of a wider campaign to raise awareness of workplace rights, and providing a unified point of contact for both employers and workers. It gives advice on employment agency standards, gangmaster licensing, working-time legislation, the National Minimum Wage, and the Agricultural Minimum Wage.

Explaining how the Vulnerable Workers Project would be more construction-specific, a UCATT spokesperson, said: “The information, training and guidance given will be specifically tailored for construction workers. The nature of the construction industry, which presents problems such as casualisation, very high levels of bogus self-employment, and rapid turnover of workers makes construction workers particularly vulnerable.”
The project has the support of a number of organisations, which will be providing active assistance through membership of a steering committee. Project partners include: The Health and Safety Executive, Citizens Advice, Jobcentre Plus, Manchester University Business School, Community Links, HM Revenue & Customs, and OH Parsons Solicitors.
The Vulnerable Workers Project will have its formal launch on 23 February at the Hallmark Hotel in Derby.

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