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.

David Armitage with York Handmade’s ethical bricks

Easingwold-based York Handmade Brick Company, the largest independent brickmaker in the north of England, has been awarded the 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.

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David Armitage, the chairman of York Handmade, said: “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.

“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."

He said the aim is to combat the threat of customers unwittingly buying cheap and unethically produced imported bricks, which are made to lower standards, but are presented as high quality bricks through slick marketing.

“This is unacceptable on a number of levels, the worst being the use of bonded and child labour to make these bricks," said Mr Armitage.

"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, 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.

“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 resellers 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 rebranding 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."