Construction Firm Accused of Using Foreign Workers in Slave-Like Conditions

Construction workers working on construction site - stock photo Credit: Paul Bradbury Crea
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A Swedish construction firm has been accused of exploiting foreign workers, with one union representative accusing the company of engaging in modern slavery-like practices.

A lawsuit has been brought against the concrete firm Formbetong by the Swedish building workers’ union Bynggnads and alleges that the company has exploited foreign workers paying as little as 96 Swedish kronor (£8.34/$10.96) on average for over 337,000 hours.

“I would call it modern slavery. It’s the tip of the iceberg, it’s never been as dirty as the industry is now before,” Torbjörn Hagelin of the construction union told broadcaster SVT.

According to the broadcaster, two Estonian-Russian migrant workers, who did not wish to identify themselves in case of reprisal, said they had been forced to work 15, 18 or even 24-hour shifts by the company. “We can say that we worked until we broke down,” a former employee stated.

Byggnads, meanwhile, said that the company violated the collective agreement with the workers and is looking for 25 million kronor (£2.17/$2.85 million) in damages.

“This has been going on for a long time, it’s a discrimination against these workers,” Hagelin said.

Elsewhere in Europe, migrant modern slavery has also been a major issue in recent months, including in the UK where it was revealed that the city of Leicester alone is alleged to contain up to 10,000 people working in modern slave-like conditions.

Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith commented on the report, which claimed there were up to 100,000 modern-day slaves in the UK, saying, “Too many migrants are then forced into slavery in disgusting conditions.”\

“They used to smuggle drugs and alcohol, but now smuggle and exploit vulnerable migrants — a much lower risk. After all, a journey from Vietnam, for example, would cost a migrant £10,000 to £35,000 and, managed via social media channels, these trafficked individuals end up in this sub-society, in illegal factories, the sex trade and even growing cannabis,” he said.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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