In honour of Paul Broadbent

It is an enormous shock to learn about the untimely death of Paul Broadbent, CEO of the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority. A death – especially of someone close - is always a tragedy, but losing a leader, a fighter for the most exploited and most vulnerable workers is especially hard.

Paul was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met and he left a huge impression on me.

I felt Paul was more than a trusted and respected colleague – he was a friend. I knew that whenever I reached out for a conversation, he would always find time for a coffee, a chat by phone from an airport, or on the side of the road when he was travelling.

He had an uncanny knack of making people feel special and important. He was funny, warm and charming, while also being extraordinarily effective, strategic and smart. He was passionate about his work, focusing his time and effort on what mattered most.

He was clear about whose side he was on – he abhorred injustice and exploitation – and was never mealy-mouthed about what needed to be done to tackle it. He was unwavering in his commitment to ensure that those responsible for criminal labour rights abuses are brought to justice – swiftly and effectively. But he didn’t blame or point fingers. He wanted to fix problems and prevent them from happening in the first place. Paul had a vision and he brought people along with him.

He passionately believed that collaboration is essential. He often cited the importance of legislation and the role of government, whilst also engaging actively with companies, trade unions, civil society organisations, parliamentarians, the media and the public. He was a really important friend of the Ethical Trading Initiative and all of our members will feel his absence. 

I have no idea how to come to terms with the loss of this powerful, energetic man who, at 54, had achieved a great deal, but had so much more to give.

We needed his leadership in the fight against modern slavery.  

I will commit to doing all I can to continue his work in the spirit in which he fought for justice. And I know that his fine team at the GLAA will continue with their excellent work, whilst also deeply mourning his loss. My heart goes out to Paul’s family and I wish them strength and comfort as they deal with their loss.

Paul, it was an honour and privilege to have known you.

As it is said in South Africa, hamba kahle (go gently).

May your memory be blessed.

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