Last week members of the Labour Exploitation Advisory Group (LEAG) met the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland OBE, to discuss how they can work together to tackle trafficking for labour exploitation in the UK. LEAG is a group of experts from nine organisations, working together to share information and understanding on the key drivers of labour exploitation and to develop strategies to prevent abuse.
During the meeting members shared stories of severe abuse faced by workers in the UK with the Commissioner, highlighting how strategies to tackle modern slavery need to address the drivers of exploitation. Carolina Gottardo, Director of the Latin American Women’s Rights service spoke of the fear and the barriers that many workers face when deciding whether to come forward about their exploitation, including a culture of impunity for exploiters and strong fear of authorities. Barbara Drozdowicz, Director of the East European Advice Centre discussed how long supply-chains, lack of awareness of workers’ own rights and difficulties in accessing justice mean that many victims are often left with few options but to remain in the situation.
Mr Hyland stated that he wants to “push the boundaries to stop labour exploitation and ensure that those who exploit workers feel the full weight of the law”. He added that a key part of this, as he implements his Strategic Plan for 2015-2017, is working together with organisations that can support him in getting a true picture of exploitation in the UK, and expressed his commitment to an ongoing relationship with LEAG.
Throughout the discussions, members highlighted the important role played by different agencies in helping workers and preventing exploitation, including through: labour inspection, informing workers about their rights in their native language and ensuring that people are able to access the support they need.
LEAG welcomed the information shared by Mr Hyland about the work he is doing and his plans to tackle exploitation. He noted that a key part of his work will be to raise awareness and train statutory agencies on spotting the signs of modern slavery, and to work with businesses to ensure supply chains are free from exploitation.
LEAG looks forward to working with the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner in his ongoing work to tackle modern slavery and to ensure that cases of labour exploitation are brought to the attention of those best placed to respond.