British lawmakers are calling for hand car washes to be regulated and licensed to combat the modern-day slavery that is being carried out “in plain sight.”
The Environmental Audit Committee said in a report that authorities are not doing enough to prevent the “flagrant rule-breaking” and exploitation of workers at the tens of thousands of hand car washes around the country. Many of them operate on shopping center parking lots and other disused spaces.
More than a quarter of the reports of alleged labor abuses referred to the Modern Slavery Helpline last year were about hand car washes.
“Hand car washes are a common sight in our towns and cities,” said Committee Chair Mary Creagh. “Yet they hide the widespread exploitation of workers through illegally low pay, poor working conditions and in some cases, forced labor.”
The committee report said thousands of workers in Britain are believed to be slaves. Many of them are thought to be Eastern European men trapped in debt bondage, forced to work in unsafe conditions, stripped of their documents and subjected to threats, abuse and violence.
The hand car washes are also blamed for water pollution as the chemicals used flow unchecked into storm drains.