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Alexander Russell: consultant, Car Wash Association (CWA)
10 March, 2020

This year the CWA has already attended two round-table conferences on labour abuse, hosted by Matthew Taylor, the government's interim director at the Office of Labour Market Enforcement (OLME).

The first, more general, meeting focused on non-compliance with labour regulations. Taylor emphasised his particular interest in the proposed Single (labour market) Enforcement Body (SEB), whose structure is currently being considered by ministers. It will have powers to enforce minimum wage compliance among its other responsibilities. The CWA has followed up with written evidence to BEIS of non-compliance on hand car wash (HCW) sites.

The second meeting was called specifically to examine the key problems in the HCW industry. Attendance was by invitation only and included 11 main stakeholders in the HCW sector from government, regulators and the CWA. Subsequent press coverage in the Financial Times quoted Taylor calling for a fresh appraisal of a mandatory licensing scheme to be overseen by local authorities to protect car wash workers, as his predecessor Sir David Metcalf had originally proposed in 2018. Two days later, speaking at a Resolution Foundation labour market enforcement event, Taylor urged "specific action and a plan" because non-compliance with labour regulations "is endemic in the HCW industry".

A recent study of 45 car washes led by Nottingham Trent University found that non-compliance with minimum wages rules was "universal". Many such rogue sites operated from unsuitable premises with ineffective protective clothing and equipment, allowing dangerous chemicals to flow into nearby water courses. Tax evasion is also a key issue with most HCW sites being cash-only payment with no receipts issued.

The CWA has warmly welcomed these positive developments which will begin to address a national disgrace which has made the UK the modern slavery capital of Europe. Anyone who suspects a labour provider is exploiting the welfare and rights of workers can report the issue to the GLAA by calling free on 0800 432 0804 or going to intelligence@gla.gov.uk


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