Slavery is hiding in plain sight on the streets of our city, an MP has warned as it was revealed car wash workers were being paid a pittance and living in squalor.
Wakefield MP Mary Creagh was responding to a Wakefield Council report that said three workers had been found living in “rented squalor”.
The council’s deputy leader Coun Denise Jeffery said officers were finding numerous cases of migrant workers living in “appalling conditions” in rented accommodation, while being employed at car washes on low pay.
Ms Creagh said: “This horrific case shows modern slavery is hiding in plain sight on the streets of Wakefield.
“Our recent enquiry into hand car washes led to more action across the district, and shows this modern scourge is around us.
“If you are using a hand car wash and paying less than £5, you could be unknowingly exploiting that worker. If you have any suspicions report them through the Safe Car Wash app.”
Coun Jeffery’s comments followed the discovery of the foreign workers at a house in Wakefield.
Enquiries led enforcement teams to a car wash in Barnsley, where the men were employed, but paid less than half the minimum wage for those aged 25 and over.
Referring to the report, prepared for next week’s full council meeting, Coun Jeffery said: “Their landlord had failed to carry out even the most minor repairs and was charging the tenants almost all their earnings for rent.
“The three men were picked up every morning and taken to a car wash in Barnsley to work about 13 hours a day for £50.
“They have confirmed that they have not been trafficked and are working at their own volition. This is sadly not an uncommon occurrence and the same story is heard at nearly every car wash we visit where living conditions are generally appalling.”
Last November, a committee of MPs chaired by Wakefield’s Mary Creagh recommended that hand car washes be licensed in a bid to “prevent modern slavery in plain sight”.