MEMBERSHIP MATTERS: stopping the spread of slavery
Hidden Horror of Human Trafficking
In the run up to Halloween, revellers across the UK are embracing all things horrifying, with an abundance of frightening films, deathly decorations and terrifying tales up and down the country. However, many are oblivious to the real life horror stories that could be unfolding on their doorstep.
The terms ‘slavery’ and ‘trafficking’ all too often conjure up fictional imagery in people minds; existing only in the plots of Hollywood thrillers or the pages of history books. Yet the terrible truth remains that slavery and human trafficking are modern day realities, and are far more widespread in the UK than most would like to believe.
Scratch the surface of society, and there are many vulnerable individuals living in inhumane conditions, treated as subhuman and forced into dangerous and exhausting work for which they will never receive any reward.
A Living Nightmare
Just this month, the case of a 58-year old slavery victim from Cumbria hit the headlines, living in a six foot shed with a soiled mattress. He had been forced to live like this for fourty years. Martin Plimmer, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) officer involved in the investigation, noted of the circumstances:
“In my many years of working in law enforcement and tackling really serious incidents of labour exploitation, I have never witnessed anything like this” (Source: BBC, 2018).
Close to Home
Unfortunately, this case is not an isolated incident. According to a report published by the National Crime Agency, 1658 potential victims of human trafficking were alerted to authorities through the National Referral Mechanism in the period of April – June 2018. Worse still, this figure is likely not close to the actual number of individuals in the grips of modern slavery in Britain – the majority of cases remain undetected and uninvestigated; sometimes for many years, sometimes forever.
It goes without saying that much responsibility lies with employers to ensure the safety and good treatment of all staff under their watch. Unsurprisingly, human trafficking tends to occur in the industries that utilise temporary workers, supplied through agencies. As such, it is of the utmost importance that all recruitment agencies make every effort to stamp out modern slavery and labour abuse.
Here at Merit, we are extremely proud to belong to the GLAA – the importance of which is abundantly clear. At the time of writing, three men had just been charged with modern slavery offences in relation to GLAA investigations into carwashes in Carlisle and Penrith (Source: News & Star, 2018). Just last week VSPF, one of the UK leading chicken catching business, was stripped of its GLAA license and is being forced to shut down after it was proven to be breaching license guidelines in three critical areas (Source: Farmers Weekly, 2018). And earlier this month, a Southampton based recruitment agency was forced to shut down after having its GLAA license revoked for “several serious violations” (Source: Recruiter, 2018).
With the actions of the GLAA towards ending slavery and trafficking evident, it is no wonder that the majority of employers prioritise trades organisation membership when selecting which recruitment agencies to work with (Source: REC, 2018).
Furthermore, at Merit we work in accordance with the guidelines outlined by the Stronger Together: tackling modern slavery in supply chains initiative. All staff are trained in spotting the signs of human trafficking and labour abuse, and regular safeguarding measures are put in place such as address checks and one-on-one conversations between candidate and recruiter.
Call to Action
I call on anyone and everyone to combat slavery and trafficking in this country. Responsibility lies at all levels – governments, employers, communities and individuals must take action and combine their efforts to abolish this modern day abomination. Lets ensure that slavery exists only in film plots and history books – not on our doorsteps.
- Merit Group’s Modern Slavery Policy: https://merit.eu.com/guides/modern-slavery-policy
- Stronger together initiative: https://www.stronger2gether.org/
- Unseen.org website: https://www.unseenuk.org/
- Modern slavery helpline: 08000 121 700