Not so Modern Slavery

“This landmark legislation sends the strongest possible signal to criminals that if you are involved in this vile trade you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up. And it says to victims, you are not alone - we are here to help you.” Theresa May, Home Secretary, 2015 on the introduction of The Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Slavery was abolished but never eradicated. Human trafficking is regarded as the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second in profitability only to the drugs trade. Organised criminality has identified that the exploitation of workers provides a lucrative business opportunity. The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that trafficking in persons has an annual trade value of around US$150 billion.

The ILO estimates that there are 20.9 million persons in forced labour globally which includes 14.2 million in private economy sectors such as construction, manufacturing, mining, utilities, agriculture, forestry, fishing and domestic work. The 2014 Global Slavery Index estimates that 35.8 million men, women and children around the world are trapped in modern slavery, whether through human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, forced or servile marriage, or commercial sexual exploitation. Analysis by the Home Office Chief Scientific Adviser in November 2014 estimates between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims are held in slavery in the UK making it the second most profitable criminal industry to drugs and the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.

The highest percentage of crime relates to Sexual exploitation, 41% of total followed by Labour, 27% and then other crimes including domestic servitude and organ harvesting.

Before the much publicised and welcome introduction of the Act just how much did any of us really think about slavery?  Most of us will have seen cases that became headline news, whether involving one person or many; to a large extent the sheer scale and diversity of the crimes against victims was unknown, so what exactly are those heinous crimes.

I freely admit that although I was aware of at least some methods of exploitation and confident of the way Be Personnel workers are treated both during the recruitment process and on assignments with clients, attending a training workshop led to me questioning if we were doing enough to ensure the safety of all workers.

Human Trafficking - the movement and/or recruitment of persons by means of threat, force or coercion for exploitation

Forced Labour – where a person is made to work against their will under the fear of a penalty

Rogue landlords – who house people in overcrowded and unsafe property often with threats of eviction or other intimidation

Work-Finding Fees – In the UK it is unlawful for workers to be required to pay to get a job.

Physical or sexual violence - Threats of or actual

Restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area

Debt Bondage - where a worker works to pay off debt or loan, and is not paid for his or her services including

Withholding of wages - refusing to pay the worker at all or excessive wage reductions

Retention of passports and identity documents

Threat of reporting to the authorities.

Victims are mainly migrant workers who often have only limited English language skills, both spoken and understanding. They may also lack knowledge of their rights or how to achieve them and accept a situation as better than nothing despite being controlled in so many aspects of day to day life by exploiting individuals or gangs.

Migrant and displaced workers are particularly susceptible to being trapped in a forced labour situation because their life situation may be such that they must accept any work just to eat and survive. They may expect to pay for work in the UK if it is common practice in their own country and could be lured by “package deals” – transport to the UK, accommodation and work and also put their trust in fellow countrymen who make convincing but false promises of being able to arrange regular work and good pay in the UK. Very soon, workers find that the reality of the work and accommodation is not what they were promised, they are trapped at the mercy of their exploiters and control of their life is no longer their own. At worst, they are living in constant terror of thugs or criminal gangs, who are threatening their safety and the safety of their families in the UK or abroad.

“Stronger Together” (www.stronger2gether.org ) is a business led, multi-stakeholder collaborative initiative whose purpose is to support organisations to tackle modern slavery within their businesses and supply chains. Stronger Together produces clear guidance and pragmatic resources to support employers and labour providers in at risk sectors to deter, detect and deal appropriately with forced labour, labour trafficking and other hidden labour exploitation.

Be Personnel is proud to announce that we have been accepted as a Stronger Together partner “for showing commitment to tackling hidden labour exploitation”. Our recruitment consultants and administrative staff have been trained to recognise and address potential examples of slavery and our workers provided with additional information about recognising slavery and how to get help if they need it. We are fully committed to ensuring this heinous crime is eradicated and believe that as well as confidence in our people and processes we now have better knowledge to help identify it.

We are committed to including information about Stronger Together in all our worker inductions and hope all clients support us.

One year on from the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 an independent review commissioned by Theresa May, while still Home Secretary, has found significant progress has been made but it also includes further recommendations for improvement.