New report highlights ‘shocking’ abuse of London’s migrant workers

Mayor describes findings of City Hall commissioned research as “consistent with modern slavery”, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

credit Remy Gieling via Unsplash
credit Remy Gieling via Unsplash

A new report has revealed the “shocking” levels of exploitation and abuse suffered by migrant workers in the capital.

Commissioned by Sadiq Khan, the London mayor described who the research findings as “consistent with modern slavery”.

The report found that migrant Londoners often work unpaid overtime, or are sometimes left waiting for months to receive wages for work they’ve done. One study mentioned, which focused on the Latin American community in London, found that three-quarters earned less than the London Living Wage, with around one in five reporting they were not paid for work carried out.

“Being paid a lower rate than promised, incorrect deductions, and unclear payslips,” were said to be frequent issues too. But the report also found that many migrant workers are subjected to bullying and discrimination.

Sexual harassment – particularly towards women migrant workers in the cleaning, care, and hospitality sectors – was also found to be “a common occurrence”.

“These sectors often have a high percentage of management positions held by men which can act as a barrier to reporting harassment,” the report states.

Racism, including by co-workers, managers and customers, is said in the report to be “a common experience” for many migrant workers in London.

The report warns: “For workers whose main concern is maintaining their income, and potentially accommodation, fear of losing work can act as a deterrent to reporting abuse.”

Khan said the report was “shocking”, adding: “Migrants being subject to long hours with no pay and abuse such as racial slurs is the opposite of everything our city stands for.

“It is abundantly clear from the report that migrant Londoners also face too many barriers to access the advice and support they desperately need to safeguard them from exploitation and help them to work in dignity.”

The mayor has launched a £750,000 investment to bolster specialist support and advice services for migrants, but he said action was also needed at a national level.

He said: “I continue to urge the government to take the urgent action needed to address these regular employment rights violations and the wider exploitation of migrants, so we can build a fairer London for everyone.”

A government spokesperson responded: “The government takes workers’ concerns very seriously and we encourage anyone with evidence of abuse or wrongdoing to report this to us.

“Through the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, the government protects the lowest-paid within our society, and increases to both in April gave a pay rise to around 2.9 million workers, including young people and apprentices.

“The government is also backing new rules to give people on zero hours contracts the right to request a more predictable working pattern.”

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