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Yorkshire Brickmaker’s award highlights fight against slavery

A leading Yorkshire brickmaker has been honoured for its high ethical standards – as the brick industry fights back against the widespread use of child labour and slavery in South East Asia.

The Easingwold-based York Handmade Brick Company, the largest independent brickmaker in the north of England, has been awarded the brand-new Brickmakers Quality Charter to underline its moral standards and green credentials.

The award comes from the Brick Development Association, the trade association for the UK’s brick industry.

David Armitage, the chairman of York Handmade, commented:

“This accolade means a great deal to us. We take huge pride, both in our environmentally friendly brick-making process and in the way we treat our loyal and hard-working staff. Sadly this approach is not shared by some of our competitors.”

He explained; “This is why the Brick Development Association has launched the pioneering Brickmakers Quality Charter scheme, which provides a Brick Certificate to reassure our customers that our bricks are made to the highest ethical standards.

“The aim is to combat the threat of customers unwittingly buying cheap and unethically produced imported bricks, made to lower standards, but passing themselves off as made to the same standards with nothing but slick marketing for certification.

“This is unacceptable on a number of levels, the worst being the use of bonded and child labour to make these bricks. This is exploitation on a terrible scale and is a stain on our industry. The excellent Brickmakers Quality Charter scheme is the first, and very significant, step in trying to stamp this out.”

Keith Aldis, the chief executive of the Brick Development Association, said:

“For a small family run firm like York Handmade Brick to achieve the charter is no mean feat. They have consistently been green, economic and viable, not to mention more than capable of producing clay brick of the highest quality. All credit goes to York Handmade”.

He continued: “Through our everyday monitoring of brick statistics and UK market throughput, we have noticed and have evidenced through work with our partners, at

University College London and others, a significant increase in the importation of clay bricks from outside of the EU into the UK.

“There is a large defined area across Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh as well as Sub-Saharan Africa and the Far East, which is causing concern where bricks are manufactured seasonally, in large numbers, and more often than not using bonded or child labour.

“Those individuals making these bricks, work under extreme conditions with little or no regard to health and safety, poor sanitation, often with little or no pay. This is unacceptable in today’s business world.

“We would always ask everyone to check the provenance of the bricks they buy, supply or use but this can prove complicated, with some manufacturers and re-sellers sometimes deliberately hiding the source of their clay bricks or evading simple questions as to the provenance and production methods used in the manufacture of the clay bricks they sell.

“It is our view that some suppliers are simply re-branding poor quality bricks with heart-warming British-sounding names, in order to associate themselves with the good reputation of UK clay brick and the potentially lucrative UK clay brick market.

“The cost of transporting these bricks, often halfway around the world, is offset by the use of cheap and often unpaid bonded labour. And of course, transporting bricks halfway around the world also has a significant negative impact on use of carbon which is ultimately affecting climate change.

“A buyer always needs to ask a supplier or manufacturer where the bricks are made and if anyone is ever in doubt, simply ask if you can visit the factory. Any reputable manufacturer would be delighted to host you and show you around. If the clay brick or paver is manufactured in the UK (or in the EU), then you can be certain that it is manufactured to correct standards and to a suitable consistent quality. Our new Brickmakers Quality Charter makes this process of checking so much easier,” he added.