Slavery was abolished in 1833 in the UK and 1865 in the United States. But recently police discovered 24 men, some allegedly held against their will and forced to work for no pay in the well-heeled English county of Bedfordshire. Though one of the worst cases of forced labour in modern British history, these men represent a tiny fraction of the estimated 12.3 million modern day slaves worldwide.
As a result of the police raid, 4 men are being charged under new UK anti-slavery legislation. But justice is slow, says Dr Mick Wilkinson from the Wilberforce Institute in Hull. While full of praise for the work of the UK Government’s GLA (Gangmasters Licencing Authority) he calls the scale of its inspection team – with just 13 people responsible for enforcing the law throughout the agriculture, fisheries and food processing industries – “a joke”.
In the United States, California is proving that eradicating modern slavery is no laughing matter. In fact the state is so serious, it has passed pioneering legislation requiring corporate transparency on slavery in supply chains. S.B. 657 California Transparency in Supply Chain Law will affect many companies, actually any large corporate doing business in California, wherever it is headquartered.
- Check conditions in their own product supply chains to evaluate and address risks
- Audit compliance to company standards by suppliers
- Require direct suppliers to certify that materials in products comply with local slavery laws
- Maintain internal accountability standards for employees and contractors
- Train employees on human trafficking and slavery.
Though companies only need to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to these requirements, we believe the new transparency delivered by this legislation gives unprecedented incentives to eliminate modern day slavers and traffickers from the economy. And not before time.