Guy Ryder & Paul Broadbent
Tackling fraudulent & abusive recruitment: ILO signs new anti-slavery pledge with UK
This afternoon I was at the Home Office to witness the signing of a ‘letter of intent’ between the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) about collaboration in the fight against fraudulent and abusive recruitment practices, forced labour and people trafficking. This is a global first, and builds on the UK’s early adoption of the new ILO Forced Labour Protocol, so it’s something I was pleased to welcome formally on behalf of the TUC alongside the CBI and others.
The issue is important on both an international and domestic level, not only because it is an attempt to enhance the capacity to disrupt trafficking from other countries to the UK, but also because such abuses are becoming all too common within the UK labour market, and are a growing problem elsewhere.
It accepts an argument that trade unions and anti-slavery campaigners have been making for a while, encapsulated in the phrase ‘modern slavery’. Modern slavery and trafficking are about more than people in chains – or rather, it covers people whose chains are debts, or who have so little access to redress and resistance that the imbalance in their labour market power with regard to their abusive employer is tantamount to physical slavery. These are people whose passports are withheld, who do not have the language or other skills necessary to escape their servitude, who are held in place by physical and mental abuse.
And it draws on the Modern Slavery Act’s focus on another sort of chain: the supply chain, which for too many people means the supply of easily exploitable labour, whether that labour is indentured brick kiln workers in India, or Vietnamese nail bar workers in the UK. Exploitative employment agencies are particularly targeted by the ‘letter of intent’, which calls for compliance with fair recruitment and decent employment standards covering issues like irregular recruitment and fees, occupational health and safety and minimum wages.
We look forward to working with the ILO and the GLAA – although we are seriously concerned about its resourcing and the issue of licensing – particularly in the light of the commitments to build awareness about the indicators of forced labour; to enhance action by employers and unions; and to increase reporting of forced labour and abusive labour practices.
The letter of intent was signed by Guy Ryder, ILO Director General and Paul Broadbent, GLAA Chief Executive, pictured above.