ETI has been actively engaged over the past year in helping to shape and influence the UK Modern Slavery Bill, now in its final stages of debate in Parliament. As a leading alliance of more than 80 major brands and retailers, trade unions representing 160 million workers globally, and 17 NGOs, we have drafted statements and written letters to influence the Bill. Our latest Briefing Note sets out the critical elements we want to see in the Bill.
ETI's new Base Code Guidance: Modern slavery - practical guidance for brands and retailers.
The UK has shown admirable commitment and leadership in its ambition to be a global leader in combating modern slavery. But it’s not there yet. There is a very real risk that weak legislation could do more harm than good if it does not set clear requirements and establish regulatory systems to tackle and prevent abuse and exploitation. It must also be clear about the specific rights for workers who are victims of modern slavery to access justice and redress.
Thinking about the year ahead, here are my top 10 wishes for 2015:
- That cheap goods and services bought and sold at the cost of exploited and abused workers become a thing of the past. Companies will put an end to the search for ever-cheaper sources of vulnerable workers. They will build sustainable supply chains that ensure workers are treated fairly all the way along their supply chain. (OK, maybe that’s unrealistic for 2015 but we need to start somewhere!).
- That companies will recognise the right for workers to organise, the right to collectively negotiate their own terms and conditions of work, and to have the freedom to leave abusive employers. The incidence of forced labour and trafficking for labour exploitation is lowest in workplaces and countries where trade unions are allowed and encouraged to operate.
- That the Modern Slavery Bill will set out minimum criteria for company reporting under the Transparency in Supply Chains Clause of the Bill, including:
- policy commitments, resourcing and actions to exercise due diligence;
- procedures to investigate and monitor modern slavery risks in supply chains;
- access to justice and remediation for victims and
- expertise and advice to find and address slavery in supply chains
- That a government department is named and resourced to enforce and monitor the transparency in supply chains clause. It will publish a list of companies required to report on their modern slavery policies and strategies and that these appear on their own and the government websites.
- The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) will have the power to investigate, monitor and regulate labour providers in all sectors – not only in food and agriculture. They will have powers to tackle labour abuse and exploitation wherever it is found – including apparel, construction, cleaning, care and hospitality.
- That the government will recognise its responsibilities to protect workers and citizens from abuse by companies and employers; that it provides the necessary skills and resources to inspect workplaces, regulate and enforce International Labour Organisation (ILO) labour standards for all workers – especially migrant, temporary and vulnerable workers.
- That consumers will demand transparency and accountability from their favourite brands and retailers. They will expect all companies to take responsibility for preventing slavery in their supply chains.
- That employers will put an immediate end to abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices. Workers will never pay a recruitment fee and will not be vulnerable to debt bondage by labour brokers. Companies will employ workers directly wherever possible.
- That more and more responsible companies, such as those that join ETI, will commit themselves to continuously improving their business practices in ways that demonstrate increased respect for workers’ rights. ETI’s trade union and NGO members will remain strongly engaged as an essential part of this continuous improvement journey, challenging where appropriate and offering constructive solutions to enable workers to stay in decent jobs.
- That we will build more collaboration, better channels of communication and resolving problems that involve governments, companies, trade unions and civil society organisations – in different countries, across different sectors and industries. Global supply chains are complex and there are rarely easy solutions. More certification and auditing are not the answers, but better systems of investigation, verifying and monitoring would be welcome.
Oh, and that we all have a happy, healthy and peaceful year!
This post first featured on the Guardian's sustainability blog
Ethical Insights: Modern Slavery - 27 January 8:30 -10:00am
Join us for breakfast at ETI's office for the latest in our Ethical Insights series